Sunday, June 13, 2010

Tenderness, Strawberries

June 12

At the sink with a colander full of fresh picked strawberries, my chest goes soft between my ribs: they are so beautiful. Craig got them from Buried Treasures Organic Farm at the market. They are our favorite because they are the small strawberries, bigger than the tiny, wild strawberries I hunted as a child in Big Sur, but far smaller than the usual grocery store strawberry. They are deep red all the way through, floral, and so sweet they make your whole body pause at the flavor.

Noticing the feeling in my chest, and feeling the small berries between my fingers as I trimmed the green crown of leaves from their base, I contemplated tenderness. It has been a week of a lot of seizures. Craig and I felt ourselves slowly erode in the stress and sleep deprivation. After the first few days of seizures we get into a kind of survival mode that leads to very abrupt conversation and frustration with each other over trivial things. Normally it drives me crazy the way he leaves his clothes draped over the furniture. In a time of higher stress, I react with internal storms of molten lava, I feel really, disproportionately angry. I lose touch with my tenderness.

While I was holding these precious strawberries, old friends were visiting. T. has a way of asking questions that inspires an authentic, present response. She is absolutely listening, she asks because she wants not just to know, but to understand. She asked about Colby's need for care for her whole life, and later at dinner, about her cognition level. To face not the questions but the answers to the questions was to speak words that are largely a silent understanding between Craig, myself and our community. To say, yes she will need care her whole life, to imagine creating safe environments for her once I can no longer fit her on my lap or catch her when she falls having a seizure, is to connect, for a moment, with some of my greatest fears.

To feel that fear, rather than shield against it with an automatic answer, is to connect again with tenderness. As T. and I spoke I felt the tremendous work of life, of being present and honest, of truly sharing your heart and experience, and I felt my love for Craig. As crazy as clothes on the furniture make me feel, I am so, so glad and grateful to be on the road together. As abrupt and bratty as we can get, we also shoulder a burden and find beauty along the way. In conversation with T. I went from feeling so tired and sad to feeling lucky and rich and surrounded by love.

Our anger is understandable: our child suffers, despite medication and radical surgical measures. The work before us is acceptance, and remembering that when we are angry, we are not really angry at each other.

While preparing dinner, I opened champagne. Craig and I looked at each other in the eyes for perhaps the first time all week and toasted everything we could think of, including "to us." We leaned into each other at the fridge door, rather than away. Kissing as we passed in the hallway, holding hands at dinner, saying thank you to each other. A brittle, exhausted day ended with serving strawberries and vanilla ice cream to a house full of friends and kids. Our lips were red, and our hearts, once again, soft.

Perfectly Simple Parfait
Cut strawberries into mixing bowl. Add one teaspoon of brown sugar per quart of strawberries. Toss and chill until ready to serve. To serve: in a small water glass, one layer of strawberries, one layer of vanilla ice cream, another layer of strawberries. Ladle a little of the syrup at bottom of bowl into each glass.


  1. I love not only your food metaphors but also the way in which food enhances your love for Craig. I was thinking of your blog yesterday when I was out with an ex-boyfriend and decided to share a pot of Morrocan mint tea with him that is quite sweet. I thought it would "sweeten" the energy between us and it did.
    I also am inspired by the ways in which you remember to reach out to each other under times of stress, even when that is not your first instinct. A nice homemade meal with friends (and champagne) is always a good reminder to celebrate, especially when it feels like there is little reason to celebrate. Good food, wine and friends always provide such a reason. Thanks for that reminder.

  2. And Purity green tea ice cream with your strawberries made a wonderful parfait too!

    Enjoy the second bottle of Sancerre some evening soon, outside with the fireflies...


  3. Do you remember that short story about Soup with a Fork? I think about that all the time, when I think about marriage and my partner and what I used to think was important. How lucky we are to love the people we do.

  4. Love this, E. Relate so deeply. Thank you for sending.