The words keep running through my head as this crazy COVID world keeps us closer to home with ever more time spent in the kitchen.
Especially for those of us who are the chief cooks and bottle washers in our families, lunch seems to come around as often every day as dinner, and the reality of planning, shopping and cooking three meals a day is getting, well, just a little bit old.
And the words, though uttered in jest, seem to ring, well, true, as the weeks become months, and the months are heading toward a year.
They were shared years ago by a dear friend who had a wicked wit and an even sharper tongue to match. She could make me laugh until I cried, and, then, just like that, she was gone too soon, even before any of us had lived to the age when our spouses would be home and hungry high noon. And asking us, what’s for lunch?
How many lunches did she make?
And how many did she miss making?
Of course, I am only thinking of this now, as we are hunkered down on the home front, where our everyday lives have been sidelined as the threat of a deadly virus has shuttered schools, businesses, and all those other destinations where we traveled. My car sits idly in my garage waiting for the weekly grocery run, the occasional errand. I joke that I get dressed up to go to Walgreens. Zoom shirts are my fashion statements now; why not spend my day in comfort in Lululemon?
But there is a chilling truth in my friend’s words, an edge to her humor that cuts close. How many lunches, indeed?
I recall another friend, another conversation, after this friend, too, was snatched away much too soon by cancer.
We were standing around her kitchen counter late morning during shivah, her absence palpable, when a cousin confided that her husband always called her at noon, interrupting her day, often causing her to respond in irritation.
And now, he too was gone, and noon had never been the same. “I miss it,” she whispered.
So surely there is a lesson here, even as we gripe about another sandwich to make, another bowl of soup to heat up, the yogurt smears on the counter, the dirty dishes in the sink, again.
How we can so easily let our own busyness get in the way, that we can miss splitting a sandwich or grabbing a salad, together.
And maybe I am thinking of this now, as the dinner of all dinners looms, as Thanksgiving approaches, its usual surfeit of family and friends around the table and the surfeit of food to share. Only to recall that this year will be different from every other year, our guest list winnowed, our menu trimmed to match, our celebration quieter. And maybe, just maybe, that much more reflective, that much more meaningful.
When we are truly grateful for all we have, for good health, for a roof over our heads, for a hot meal on the table, for family and friends, near and far, for those closest and most dear, and the prospect of gathering together to give thanks for it all.
Even the turkey and stuffing and pumpkin pie, and especially for the leftovers that will be in the fridge the next day.
Ready for lunch.