The Beanstalk

Record of a writer, a family & an adventure.

Month: August, 2013

Dinner at the table.

Last weekend we drove to Charlotte to visit some old friends. When we were first married, and so were they, we lived down a block and around a little s-bend from each other in the dodgy end of Winston. We used to walk to each others’ houses for dinner, great to have close company when it snows, and watch cable on their TV since we didn’t have it. One time we got around to wondering if the guys, were they to yell loud enough, would be able to communicate from our front door to theirs. They tried it, and it worked, even though it just sounded like muffled shouting in the distance.

Juliet and I were walking around her new neighborhood, each with our stroller, while the guys cooked dinner. They live in a beautiful new house that has a yard and trees and an upstairs – a lot has changed in four years, for both of us – and we were discussing the institution of dinner.  She said that she wanted to commit, once their daughter was able to understand and take part, to eating dinner around the table as a family. Having grown up in a house where that practice was institutional, I agreed instantly, recalling thousands of dinners at the dark, antique table, how I would run my finger along the edge where the wood had pulled up and chipped beside the leaf in front of the place I sat, the fact that we always used linen, not paper, the way my mom would tap the dimmer switch to darken the room a bit, and how we would all complain that is was too dark.

What is it about sharing a meal around the table? To me, it is the essence of heaven. Those people I like, I love, that make me laugh, that tell stories, that remember the way life was when… that look forward to futures together. Celebrating what we have been, what we are, and what we hope to be. Sharing a meal around a table, even though it always ends, is almost eternal in its nature.

Another friend gave me a book recently, Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist. She said, “I thought of you all the way through this book.”  Because there are so few empty waking hours I am discriminating about what I choose to read. I want fiction. Rich, well-written, compelling fiction because it doubles as escape & study. I am not tempted by non-fiction, but she told me about this book with such obvious conviction that I would read it and be totally swept up, that I agreed.

I was crying on the thirteenth page.

“What’s becoming clearer and clearer to me is that the most sacred moments, the ones in which I feel God’s presence most profoundly, when I feel the goodness of the world most arrestingly, take place at the table. This particular alchemy of celebration and food, of connecting people and serving what I’ve made with my own hands, comes together as more than the sum of their parts. I love the sounds and smells and textures of life at the table, hands passing bowls and forks clinking against plates and bread being torn and the rhythm and energy of feeding and being fed.”

YES. I wanted to text Shauna and say, “What you said on p. 13, mmhmm. You’re singing my song.” I wanted to know this woman. I wanted to thank her for putting a name with a face of these feelings I have toward the evening meal.

A few nights ago we had dinner with some friends. We sat outside on their back deck and ate a very simple meal of grilled chicken, salad and bread. It was unnaturally delicious — fresh, as summer, with all of its natural, vibrant flavor. I brought wine and dessert. It had been a somewhat long day with several added detours I hadn’t anticipated. I had decided to make chocolate-dipped bananas because it is a light dessert without much effort in the prep. What I conveniently forgot is that I have never — I do mean not one time in all of the times I have tried — been able to successfully melt chocolate in a double boiler. Every time it turns into a gritty chocolate paste, tread lines etched into the pot from stirring, and the chocolate “sauce” almost completely stuck to the spoon in one large clump. This time I followed directions online, did exactly what it said, and the result was no different.  But then it was 6:54, we were supposed to be arriving at their house at 7:00, Jack wasn’t even dressed. I dipped (scooped) the bananas in the chocolate mess anyway, looking for the softest places in the pot, and laid them out on the parchment paper.  I expressed to Mark how embarrassed I was to be bringing such a hideous dessert as an offering to our hosts, and he laughed, agreeing it was pretty ugly, but reminded me that chocolate and butter is chocolate and butter, no matter how disgusting it appears.

The meal was perfect and lovely outside, and we talked for a long, long time about real life and real faith. We chewed on the question of a life after Jesus in this culture, in this country, in this city, this year. We talked about our choices, the ins and outs of our decision making, the way God is challenging us in a new way to question our motives and desires and put them up against his Word and the life of Jesus. Our conversation was rejuvenating, and sitting with friends in the warm light from inside, watching faces, drinking wine, nibbling on the crusty ends of the baguette was good. It was good.

And then the bananas came out. I was embarrassed again, until Kelly shook her head at me and said, “Who cares what they look like?” and then I ate one and it was so cool and hard on the outside and soft on the inside. Such a good exclamation point to the night. What we ate didn’t matter. It was sweet, and sweet to eat them together, and I was reminded again of the holy magic that takes place with people we love around the dinner table.


Five months and the beach.

Yesterday I was startled when I looked at Jack in a picture on my phone. I had bought him a pair of baby boy jeans. Faux pockets, thin, forgiving denim that feels more like a thick t-shirt and he was wearing them with a green and white striped collared shirt. I’ve been squeezing that white, dimpled little body into clothes that are a bit too small so I had decided to get some pants that fit and to borrow some bigger clothes from my sister’s closet of outgrown boy shirts and jeans and sneakers. When I looked at the picture the fact of this sat in front of me like Humpty Dumpty on the wall – Jack is not an infant anymore! It took me by complete surprise. I felt like if I put him down on the floor he would start dancing around. 

It keeps getting better with Jack. Last week we went to the beach, which I was a little wary of because if he didn’t like it I would have been very disappointed. Baby loved the beach, totally digging that sand. He is five months old now. Here is proof:






Day in, day out.

Tomorrow the Evans are heading to Sandbridge Beach (south of VA Beach) for a week with my family. We were all supposed to go back in late May but as you may recall, my sister was stuck in a hospital on bed rest awaiting the birth of her son so she was unable to go. Sam was born on June third and he still lives in the NICU, but they decided a few days at the beach were necessary for their family so we are all heading back east.

I’m ready for the beach. This “working from home” gig is wonderful in so many ways, but my life has been a bit out of control since I started in June and a week off will be therapeutic. On Wednesday when Mark got home from work I was so mean. So mean. Jack had been busy, busy all day, rolling around and hanging out with my friends. He is a baby, so I figured all of this activity would wear him out. I figured he would fall asleep for his afternoon nap and sleep for a few hours. All day I planned on this nap in order that I could work on the financials for my job, something I need two uninterrupted hours to complete. Jack fell asleep as planned, I sat down at the computer with some juice, went to open QuickBooks and… “Error 3771, Situation 1: Your computer which you despise because Windows 8 is INSANE and NEVER makes sense and changes screens on you twenty times a day has failed you and QuickBooks ain’t gonna open sister, and it’s likely that all of your financial data is WIPED OUT.”

I re-started, I went online to try and fix the problem, I tried other avenues of opening the program. To no avail. 

After about eight minutes of searching I finally found a phone number to call for help. I should hand it to these people–they really want to teach you to fix it yourself. But the truth is that I do not want to know how to fix it myself. I want you to fix it for me. If I wanted to fix computer programs I would have gone into a different line of work. I digress.

Called the phone number, reached a man named Ken with a very thick Eastern accent who had a very hard time understanding my problem and who, once he did understand the issue, informed me that to solve this ONE issue for me he would have to charge me sixty dollars. Um.

I gave him my credit card number and decided to deal with the repercussions later.

The important thing is that after 49 minutes on the phone with Ken I could open QuickBooks, the data was not lost, and I had instructions on how to avoid this issue in the future. But in the meantime Jack had woken up early from his nap, flailed around in his crib until I had come to remove him, been hungry and needed to nurse (which he did, while I sat with Ken at my computer listening to his programming clicks and sighs) and was now dancing up and down on my legs while I held the phone with my neck. 

Sweating and mentally cussing.

Suffice it to say that when Mark walked in from work, all cheerful and ready to go grab some dinner, and I literally glared at him from behind the phone and handed Jack to him, joy was lost. I was so angry to have wasted that kind of time, those precious naptime minutes when I can actually devote my entire consciousness to the task at hand rather than forty percent of it. 

In the car on the way to dinner I was quiet, so frustrated and thwarted. Eventually Mark coaxed the story of the day out of me and sympathized, broke the tension by making me laugh. But it did lead to this question of how does one work from home? 

I am beginning to make more of an effort to purpose my time. I know that once Jack is awake I will be his mom, and while he sleeps I will be the Executive Secretary of the Rotary Club. This does not leave time for reading my Bible or writing, and the solution is that I must wake up earlier. This week I started setting my alarm for early — to get up and read and have coffee and write a bit before I hear the stirring from the back of the house. Week one has been successful, week two I’ll be at the beach. We’ll look forward to week three. I dreaded this early wake up routine because I have been out of it for such a long time, but was surprised by how much peace it brought me this week. I am writing again, which is a big deal. As I always say, it’s what makes me feel human.

In the morning I can see.

It is morning, all quiet in my house. When the air kicks on it rumbles like approaching Niagara Falls, and back in the kitchen I hear the dog shift in her crate every so often. When I wake up early enough to enjoy this time of the day I am thankful, at such unearthly peace, but it doesn’t happen as often as it should. After Jack goes down to sleep it feels like a piece of what our life used to be like and I want to stay up late to enjoy the late evening’s freedom so I end up reading or watching an old movie or talking to a friend or online window shopping until eleven thirty. Come morning I cannot dredge my body, soggy with sleep, out of the bed until Jack stirs. Then the magical peace of morning solitude is lost, albeit to the beaming, clumsy, toothless smile of our boy.

Last week we took the bassinet out of our room and put Jack down to sleep in his own crib, in his own room. He is going on five months old, so it seemed like a good time. We had put it off for a while because it is so easy having him right beside me at night, if he wakes up I can just reach over and re-insert his pacifier without even opening my eyelids. But perhaps it was getting a bit excessive, plus we had promised to lend the bassinet to a friend who’s baby is due August tenth. 

The reality is that Jack doesn’t know. He doesn’t know or care where he sleeps, but I do. I walked out of his room, pulled the door to about closed, walked into the kitchen and started crying! Mark is usually really good about comforting me, but it took him fifteen seconds of staring bewildered to figure out what had taken me from completely normal to tears. He did wrap his arms around me, and I choked out something about how the tiny baby stage is over for Jack. Funny.

Time is passing. That is not a quality of the cosmos that I like or embrace, but it is what it is, and I am watching it happen in my own life, and I realize that I like it even less as it happens with Jack. I don’t want to think about kindergarten or crushes or the inevitability of his feelings getting hurt or his wedding some day in the future. I would prefer if he stayed gummy and drooling forever.

And yet, even as I feel those feelings so deeply, I also know that I don’t want that. Truly. Truly I want the biggest life for Jack. Truly I want to raise him with the ultimate goal that he will be able to leave and go out into the world with confidence and faith and intelligence from a springboard of the sweetest love. I want every stage of life for him, every kind of experience. I have read a quote that mother love is in some ways painful, and the only thing I can figure so far is that sometimes I love Jack so much it hurts and I cry. Like when he goes to sleep in his crib for the first time.

It took a painful while, thinking maybe we’d never have Jack, to get here. And then, when we found out I was pregnant, it was almost like we sat holding our collective breath for eight months, wondering if it was really true. Now we are here, watching our life unfold as we had never been able to imagine, and I swear it takes these ghostly quiet mornings for me to see it all.