Guest post by Shelley Massey, Atlanta, GA
There is beauty in a burned supper. After finishing work, getting the kids from daycare, and bustling groceries into the house last night I set about my evening routine of rustling up two vegetables, a starch, and a protein that could pass for supper. Still in my work clothes, I turned the kids loose into the backyard as I fired up the grill. The chicken was partially frozen and I realized that I forgot to get more broccoli, the only green vegetable that my kids will eat. Casting my lot with zucchini and a bottle of barbeque sauce, I got down to work.
My background music was the laughter of my children outside (okay, laughter and the occasional screaming at one another). Playing my odds that they’re usually fine out of my sight as long as I can still hear them, I began pulling food out of the fridge. Mid-way through wrapping corn in foil, I realized that my soundtrack had gone quiet. Stepping outside, I found my two children, stalking, then chasing, birds. My husband, the quail hunter, would have been so proud.
I returned to the kitchen. Shortly after putting chicken, zucchini, and corn on the grill, I realized that I couldn’t hear them again. Repeating my earlier surveillance, I spotted them in the driveway, picking up pollen strings and throwing them in the air while singing and dancing. I couldn’t make out what they were singing, but it was an original. Smiling, I watched for a minute until I realized that I’d better start the water for the macaroni and cheese.
I returned to the kitchen. While the water was boiling, I added more sauce to my (maybe) thawed out, but now grilling, chicken. I turned the corn. I put the noodles on to cook. I salt and peppered the zucchini. I glanced up from the grill to see my children, now a pirate and a princess, on the playground. In the late afternoon light, they looked like they’d possibly just stepped out of the illustrated pages of a fairytale. I hadn’t really seen them all day, and glancing at the grill one last time, I walked into the yard to play.
You see, I’m not a perfect mother, but I’m a superb sea monster. We played and ran, worked up a sweat, and maybe spotted the first firefly of the year. Dinner cooked, and cooked, and cooked, and when I finally pried myself away from the kids to peer into the grill, the charcoals looked less done than the chicken. My children, however, were electrified at the time we’d spent together, and I certainly felt more alive than when I hauled everyone out of the car 90 minutes earlier.
Last night, my kids didn’t each much of their supper, but they probably wouldn’t have, anyways. Some days that’s just how it goes. I didn’t eat much either, but it’s not going to hurt me much to miss a meal or two. And as I scraped the burn off of the food I was plating out for when my husband would come home, I realized that sometimes the things we are so hard on ourselves about (keeping a clean house, doing the laundry, fixing an edible supper) are exactly the things that we should be sacrificing.
The beauty of failure is written in the byline, where the truth of a story lives. If we can stop judging ourselves for the headlines of our lives “Woman Burns Dinner,” and pay a little more attention to the byline “Spends raucous evening with children on the most perfect Spring evening of the year,” then we will all be seeing a little more beauty.