I think it started last month with the book.
It was a Saturday, and I had just laid my daughter down for her nap. My son was entertaining himself, and I had a little time on my hands. The house was relatively clean…straightened, really, although it could have used much more straightening. Perhaps I could fold another load of laundry…that requires minimal effort, but would provide a small sense of accomplishment. Or I could start a movie, maybe watch half for now, and the rest tomorrow. I could even fold laundry while watching the movie. Maybe I could fit in a 20-minute nap.
And all at once, all of these options just seemed so dreadfully boring and monotonous, and then I thought, there’s that book. And my mind went to the Julia Child biography in my nightstand. The one I had requested for Christmas after hearing an NPR interview with the author, the one I knew I would never have time to read, but had to have anyway.
A book? I thought. I don’t have time to be reading books. There’s too much work to be done. I have to start dinner in a few hours. I want to finish all of the laundry this weekend. Maybe I should do some math practice with my son.
But my mind kept telling me, read the book. You don’t have to read it all at once. Just a little here and a little there. That’s how you read a book…remember?
And with that I retrieved the book from my nightstand drawer and, reading a little here and a little there, entered Julia’s world, this dilettante, the C student with no sense of direction or purpose who never cooked a single thing until she was 34 years old.
This book – my first book in three years, which I am still reading, because this sucker is huge – has become my getaway, the one thing that is mine and only mine. I average but a few pages a day, but when I am in Julia’s world, my time is my own, and anyone who needs something from me will have to wait until I get to my stopping point.
And then last weekend my uncle was in town and I invited him over for dinner. As I tidied up the house I look at my poor, battered dining room table and thought, why not a tablecloth? And if you have ever at any point had a two-year-old, known a two-year-old, or been in the same room as a two-year old, you understand the implications here. But somehow, the tablecloth won, and out of the closet it came, and was soon followed by an impromptu centerpiece made of rosemary from the yard, and some nice place mats from the buffet drawer.
After a pleasant dinner I thought, why not leave the tablecloth on the table? So there it stayed, with centerpiece and place mats, all week. My children loved it, even the two-year-old, and a little extra care and caution is all it took to keep the tablecloth relatively clean.
In fact the table was still intact this weekend when I brought my mother to my house following her birthday dinner and treated her to a new special dessert I had made, chocolate espresso pots de creme, served on my nice plates that I haven’t used in five years. It was a special night.
These really are small gestures, imperceptible to anyone other than me as I attempt to reconnect with myself and inch my way toward the practices which bring me joy: reading, learning, setting a nice table, and cooking special things for special people.
I feel like me again.