Being Positive With YOU
What a busy week! It is the end of Week 6 and I have accomplished much… and not just baking!
Host a support shower for a young, unwed mother-to-be…check. Bake fresh goods for a global justice cause…check. Attend with my mother in law, her favorite charity event and tea…check. Run kids to sporting games and activities…check. Volunteer for a Sunday morning nursery shift and 8 babies show up, ready to rock and roll…check. Cook a big family dinner, roast beef and all the trimmings…double check. Pick up a family member from the airport at midnight…triple check! Did I mention my job in there somewhere? Yes, I did that too, so I am a teeny, tiny bit tired. But not too tired to complete the story I left dangling earlier this week, which began with the cookbook.
After abandoning my mum’s cookbooks at a donation center for used household items, I walked away feeling a deeper sense of loss, than when I walked away from her interment. Sure, more time had passed, so naturally my initial shocked and numb phase of grief was over, meaning I was completely immersed in guilt, anger and sadness. Chasing after my performing career did not alleviate these feelings. Getting married to a man I dated for a short time, did not offer reprieve. Having my first child and experiencing a joyful flood of new life, lifted my darkened state temporarily, but it returned during sleepless nights of attending to infantile cries of hunger or discomfort. This was a most desperate place; the mindset in which I could let go of things that kept memories of mum alive.
Almost 6 months later, barely scraping by with $87 week, which had to pay for my gas, all our groceries, the house utilities, and anything else not connected to insurance or mortgage bills. I did cash returns for unused wedding gifts and baby shower presents. All my previous savings got spent making up any shortfall from bi-weekly maternity benefit cheques that came in the mail. There was less and less to scrimp with, everything had already been scrutinized to maximum savings, hardly using the car, hardly eating, and hardly noticing extreme shifts in my ex-husbands passionate opinions. All I focussed on, was figuring out the next meal, what it would cost to make and how to do it cheaper next time. I was going to prove him wrong, and I was right, and I would make it on whatever amount my maternity benefit provided.
On one particular day, what I needed to accomplish, was buy a weeks worth of groceries with just over $20, and no perceivable way of making that happen. It would take at least $50 to gather the proper quantities necessary. But, I set out anyway, baby in tow, carrying him inside his car seat, into the first grocery outlet where I would find a few of our needed items on sale. This particular store was connected to a smaller, indoor mall and as the days were getting colder, babe and I would often sit on a mall bench for a while, cooing and laughing back and forth to each other, as our only time away from the house. I would pretend to be taking a shopping break, like other mom’s with babies strolling aimlessly past stores they actually entered. I did not bother going in, not even to browse.
As it was close to Christmas, there was a flea market set up in the middle of the mall, with different artisans and dealers. I decided to head toward the market, instead of the grocery store, delaying the misery of meticulously prioritizing what items I could afford.
Crocheted toilet paper holders, handmade quilts, wooden crafts and jewelry tables, all lined up to showcase unique wares. One table drew my eye from the rest. It had antique trinkets and furniture, so I went to take a closer look. There was a section of older appearing books on one side of the table and as if a light had guided me to it, a bright, shining book that looked like one of my mum’s was laying on top of the pile. The sight of it flooded my senses a bit, having forced it’s memory out of my mind, which was tricky for this particular book. My ex asked me to make something from it after he forced me to give all the cookbooks away. Like lemon juice on a paper cut, that request stung, and I felt no joy, or spite, or satisfaction in telling him he could not have what he wanted…. the recipe was gone, because the book was GONE. And now, here is one like it, on this flea market table.
I was in disbelief that a book like my mum’s could exist elsewhere, wanting to believe it would be an only print or rare edition.
I had to touch it.
I set baby down in his seat, reached out for the book, and opened the front cover. My mouth fell open! There, on the right top corner, was my mother’s signature. She had labelled it hers in careful cursive script. This was her cookbook! One of my lost books. I blinked in disbelief, then stared at the man behind the table looking apathetically at my stunned face.
I told him this was my mothers….it was hers…she died….and I….uhhh, I….you see, I could not keep everything….
“It’s 5 bucks.”
“All the hardcover books are 5 bucks.”
But this is actually my book….and I don’t have $5….well, I do…. but REALLY, I don’t!
I put it back down indignantly, stooped to pick up my beautiful son peering sweetly from his cozy blanket coverings, was about to turn my back on that cookbook once again, and suddenly froze.
NO! This is not how it ends. I had let ‘something’ that I love go, and it had come back to me. It is mine, so I reached into my pocket and handed the guy 25% of the money I needed for food. With the other $15, I was able to buy one plastic bag full of groceries , and headed home with it and the cookbook. As I slowly unpacked the measly items, wondering how to use and stretch out ingredients without raising any flags from ex about not having enough food, I heard the mailman come up the front stairs. Baby and I went to the mailbox and to my surprise, a cheque was inside. It had come early, maybe because of the holidays, maybe because of an error, maybe because it just had to be, in order to remind me, my life matters.
My life, my hurts, my joys, my struggles, my thoughts, all important to someone who is loving and guiding me. Having that cookbook returned to me taught me about hope. Hope is one of the targets I was sure would be part of this weeks mission. And it is, but I am as cautious with this word, as I am with ‘happy‘.
The kind of hope that gives me a positive outlook with people I love the most, is a tough, gritty, raw and powerful kind of hope. It will stand in the wake of a rebelling teen, and say….let’s make a change so you can find what you need. It will scream silently when the words trying to escape would damage relationships already struggling to find balance, and instead reframe a deficit to become a benefit. The hope I am talking about, does not contain unlimited smiles, and carefree skipping through heart wrenching tragedies, like the ones we have been facing globally, in order to truly exist. My picture of hope is not a cartoon caricature of daisies and yellow button faces. My kind of hope is mighty and deep, carrying weight upon weight of burden and care, and deciding it will not be beaten.
Hope took the last $5 out of my wallet and dared me to trust I would have enough to eat. Hope returned something I could not keep, in order to free me from shame and guilt. Hope stares through the lies a teenager tells to themselves and their parents, and sees the good that will come, instead of seeing all that is bad. Hope makes brave and gutsy people, when there is no bravery or guts left in them. Hope reminds me I am not alone, not abandoned, not forsaken in my choices and emotions.
This kind of hope is my best chance for keeping positive with the ones who are closest to me.
Mum’s handwritten recipes on the back page of her cookbook.
Above photos: Head start on Christmas baking.