Sunday, June 2, 2019

Coming to Peace with Rotting Strawberries

There are strawberries going bad in my refrigerator right now. I know, it might not seem like a big thing - lots of people have strawberries going bad in their refrigerators. But, there are strawberries going bad in my refrigerator right now, and that signifies changes around here. Every Monday for as long as I can remember* I have cleared out my refrigerator and taken stock of what's inside before I make my grocery list and meal plans for the week. If there are strawberries on the verge of death we'll cut them up to put over pancakes or I'll pull them out into the open when the kids get home from school and that usually takes care of them. We don't often have food go bad in our refrigerator unless it's leftovers from a meal that no one wants to revisit.

Or grapes.

For some reason grapes always go bad before we eat them, and I can't figure it out. We like grapes, the neighborhood kids like grapes, it's one of those rather inexplicable things.

But anyway - I'm not here to talk about the grapes. I'm here about the strawberries.

They're going bad in two different places. On the middle shelf, all the berries are washed and ready to eat, but somehow their lid got bumped to the side one day and they have now been left uncovered for long enough that they are shriveled and dry. In the fruit crisper drawer, you'll find more strawberries, growing fuzzy and beginning to turn into liquid.

I noticed them when I put a new carton of strawberries right into the same fridge, just after I packed some of them up for our dinner, and just before we headed out to the lake.

*Let's be real, this statement is probably only about 80% true in application.

The weather was amazing. The air was warm and the sky was blanketed with puffy clouds, the water was calm and cool, and there was hardly another boat out on the entire lake.

Eliza tried her hand at tubing and was quite the natural.

We've been out on the boat a couple of times this year now and Eliza is sold. She loves everything about it! Except for when we plug in the pump to pump up the tube. She has a pretty intense fear of anything that makes a loud noise, so that part calls for a bit of bravery from her, but otherwise, she is in love and agrees with the rest of the family that being out on the lake is a pretty fantastic way to spend an evening.

I held Eliza for most of our time out there. I kissed her soft cheeks over and over and basked in her giggles, and I laughed, again and again, at the kids flying behind the boat on the tube. We eventually cut the engine and pulled out our picnic dinner. And the fresh strawberries on my plate reminded me of all the rotting ones in my fridge and I had to quiet all the voices in my head that wanted me to believe that I was somehow failing in my role as a human because of it.

Simplicity. I reminded those voices. And cleaning out my fridge every single Monday feels not-so-simple. I'll get to the strawberries. And as I turned my ear away from those voices and listened to the water instead, my whole soul filled with calm. Gentle slaps and splashes. Water hugging the boat, hugging the children, hugging my heart.

I love the lake.

The sun eventually went behind the mountains, signaling it was time to head back to the dock. Some of the clouds turned a soft pink, and everything felt so beautiful. Inside and out.

I'm realizing that there will always be strawberries that need my attention. And dishes and counters and laundry and clutter and beds to be made. But when I give my attention to those things, there is always something, or someone, on the other side of the coin that is not getting my attention.

And, this is the great balancing act of being a mother. And a human. To decide which things truly, genuinely need our attention the most, to have the courage and strength to leave the other screaming things behind, and then to be willing to live with the consequence of rotting strawberries, unmade beds, sticky counters... There will come times when strawberries are the most important thing, but mostly it will be people.

So, go ahead and get comfortable in there my squishy strawberries. I'll get to you eventually. But for now, I'll be out on the lake with my husband, listening to toddler giggles, cheering for my new skiers, laughing at tube crashes, and talking to my teenager like she's an adult.

There will always be more strawberries.