Strawberries in Winter

 

I walked from the car into the house with my purse in my hands. Chris looked up long enough to not see any grocery bags in hand and for me to say, “They didn’t have any. Again.”

 

“Really?” It’s less a question, more statement of fact.  

 

This was the second trip on consecutive days to the grocery store where my desperate eyes scanned the colorful produce section. Red apples. Yellow bananas. Green cucumbers. Orange oranges, obviously. Am I not seeing them because I’m worried they aren’t here, or are they really not here, again? The possibility of the unfortunate truth clouded my gaze with a peripheral confusion so I went to ask someone for help.

 

A woman in a black shirt with a plastic name tag pinned to her left chest confirmed “No strawberries” after I smiled, hopeful, wondering if she had the one key ingredient I still need for the cake I said I’d take to Easter dinner.   

 

“Just make something different,” Chris said while I took off my shoes, dropped my purse to the floor. I slid on navy blue slippers. It’s cold here, too cold for it to be Easter. The calendar says it’s spring, a technicality. The snow in the forecast and my winter coat beg to differ.

 

“But I said I would bring strawberry cake.”

 

“So? Make something else.”

 

This alternative is worth considering. But most likely, I’d pick a dessert needing some other ingredient I don’t have in my pantry or fridge. No.  “I’ll have to go back to the store anyway.”

 

The point is this: I want to make strawberry cake.

 

Because of that, I need strawberries.

 

***

 

How’s your writing going? What’s your goal? What are you working towards?

 

Over a series of weeks, I’m asked these questions by multiple people. And I don’t know how to answer.

 

The writing is okay. I don’t know my goal. I’m not sure what I’m working towards.

 

(Lies. All of these are lies.)

 

I like writing. Time glitters when I sit down with a notebook and pen or with some white space and a computer. Maybe I do have goals, but they’re like imaginary butterflies which haven’t landed yet; they are words intangible, unknown fully.

 

***

 

There’s a section of our wall when you walk from the kitchen into the dining area, where my husband, Chris, marks our kids’ heights with a ruler, pencil, and his meticulous miniature handwriting.

 

My daughter Nadia’s tick mark stayed at nearly the same level for almost seven months last year.

 

Then, in what felt like one twenty-four hour period, she grew four inches, lost five baby teeth, and needed shoes four sizes bigger than the ones she was wearing. Last weekend Nadia spent the night at a friends house and I’m pretty sure she was taller when I picked her up in the morning than when I’d dropped her off. 

 

I’ve been a mom for a while: I understand growth spurts. They’re significant, impressive, and often unpredictable.

 

But during that slow time, when her brothers celebrated every quarter-inch increase with high fives and “I’m gonna be taller than you’s” my daughter went from an indifferent shoulder shrug to an increasingly alarmed frustration in not having grown at all. 

 

Where I used to work in the hospital, there was an employee who would do the very bare minimum of his job: phones would go unanswered, rooms remained unstocked, help never offered, given only when asked — and even then, reluctantly. Yet as soon as a stampede of doctors and nurses rolled into the unit with a patient in critical condition, he’d be in the middle of the mix. Doing CPR, grabbing and running for life-saving equipment. Effort. Action. All so exciting and impressive. 

 

It’s not unlike me not liking housework, I guess.

 

But so much of life is in the taking care during the in-between. In the working and the waiting. During the planning and preparations. In the middle of the mundane and the monotonous.

 

It’s not exciting, but there’s purpose in it. Potential grows here. 

 

But we’re used to measuring ourselves on what is seen. On the highpoints.

 

Yet how much growth is actually internal? During the time where we have no noticeable change to our mark on a wall, there’s something going on inside, always. Impressive and important preparatory work builds foundations, the matrix for what will eventually show up its right time. 

 

The rooms need to be re-stocked for a reason: A dying patient could arrive into my room. Company eventually shows up to my house.      

 

But this is hard: The waiting for what could be. For what we aren’t guaranteed.

 

Just like how our cold long winter has turned into a frustratingly shy and angry Spring, right before the buds pop and shoots of green peek through the cold earth, it’s hard not to question the quiet.

 

We have an innate desire to want what’s not in season. And the wait takes us so very close to the edge of our tolerance.

 

We don’t want the underneath, unseen times. We don’t want the slow, immeasurable work. The restlessness of want. The unfulfilled quiet. The stillness of latency. 

 

I want to fill the quiet with music.

I want the barren trees to get dressed.

I want fruit and blooms.

Beauty. Sunshine. Excitement. Praise.

 

I don’t want the endless hours of practice, the all-consuming commitment of mind or body or heart into training. Nor the monotony of studying, the drudgery of the practice. The grinding. Wrestling. Tilling. Pruning.

 

I don’t want to sit in a chair, write words I’ll throw away or delete, the ones that must be written in order for my tick mark to raise a half inch in four or seven months time.   

 

I don’t want the work of the everyday. The reports. The meetings. The restocking. The maintenance. 

 

I want mountaintops: Race days, championship games, exhibit openings and book launches. Concerts. Final product rollouts. Election days. Graduations. Promotions. Easter Sunday.

 

I want strawberries in the winter.

 

***

 

I’d love to say I took inventory of what was in my pantry and made a perfectly lovely dessert. Maybe an apple tart. Or pie. I almost always have ingredients for these things called cherry squares with almond extract that everyone loves.  

 

But I didn’t. I went to a different store, later in the day, and bought two plastic containers of strawberries, shipped in from somewhere else. 

 

I can sit with uncertainty and metaphors and long seasons of unknowing for quite some time.

 

I wanted to make a strawberry cake.

 

 

 

Photo by Erwan Hesry on Unsplash

Sonya Spillmann

3 Comments

  1. Love this.
    So true!
    The growth is internal. The room must be stocked. But I want what’s out of season!

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