Every weekend, on either Saturday or Sunday morning, my husband, Tim, makes chocolate chip pancakes.
Big deal, right?
I can’t remember when this tradition started. Maybe two or three years ago? The kids and I wake early, as we always do. He lounges in bed for another hour or two. Some days we wait lazily for pancakes while we watch a movie. Some days we are ambitious and we’ll make art projects or we’ll go for a walk before Tim is even out of bed. Sometimes, I leave the children to fend for themselves or get up while even they are still sleeping and go for a run. Sometimes, we make a short list of things we might need for our pancake feast and go to the store so that everything is ready when he wakes.
The pancakes Tim makes are gluten free because we have an entirely gluten free kitchen because he has celiac disease. I have mentioned this before. We did not just choose to be gluten free because it is now somehow being touted as vaguely “healthier.” Don’t even get me started…. He really can’t have the stuff, people.
He no longer makes a single thing from a mix. He might start there sometimes but he messes with all of the recipes until he has perfected them. Pizza crust? Pancakes? Muffins? Biscotti? He has perfected all of these. I’d rather have his gluten free version than the gluten kind, at this point. Don’t skim over that, dear reader. That sentence means something profound in our house: I’D RATHER HAVE HIS GLUTEN FREE VERSION THAN THE GLUTEN KIND, AT THIS POINT. Yes, I said it. And it’s all true.
So… by the time I’ve kept the kids busy for a couple of hours and Tim finally, and reluctantly, gets out of bed on the one day I mostly don’t bug him for trying to stay in it, we are HUNGRY. But a major factor in Tim’s cooking process is t…i….m….e….. He is a meticulous person. Meticulous people don’t rush things. People like me do. That’s why I don’t make the pancakes. And, even though it is sometimes a sweet version of torture, waiting for those pancakes, we do.
The kids and I keep ourselves busy while he cooks. We chop almonds, slice strawberries and bananas, put the jar of ground flaxseed on the table, pour little glasses of milk, put out the maple syrup, set the table, we used to even make the sausages but he’s taken that job because we would rush it too much.
That’s just it. The whole meal is about preparation, time, our whole small family buzzing around one incredibly pleasurable activity all at the same time for a couple of hours. It is sacred.
And, yes, I thought the use of that word through carefully – sacred, is what it is.
We slow down – and boy, do we need to slow down! – together. We smile at each other. We laugh together. We revel in the deliciousness together. We all methodically take a morning to do what we need to do to bring our chocolate chip pancake feast into the world, together, and then we (usually) work together to clean it all up.
I will spare you (in this post, at least) my religious history. But, I will say, I have always liked the concept of Taoism. I’m sure I have a simplified, American-ized version of Taoism in my head mostly derived from the popular book, The Tao of Pooh in which the philosophy is illuminated by the character of Winnie the Pooh and his friends. It’s not a kid’s book, by a long shot. But, if you’ve ever read the Winnie the Pooh books, neither are those, really. But I’ve also read several serious books on the subject and tried to understand it as much as any Midwestern Episcopalian-raised person ever truly can. So, what is the Tao for me and what on earth does it have to do with chocolate chip pancakes?
The one explanation I keep remembering is that the Tao is like the path of water. Water follows the path of least resistance but at the same time, water is strong enough to forge its own path over time. The Tao does not violently smash through obstacles, in other words, it gracefully pushes against them and past them until they no longer exist.
Our family’s obstacle is time. There is never enough. There will never be enough. This concept has been especially difficult for me, so far, in dealing with all the recent death in my family. No matter how much time you tried to spend with someone, it was never ever ever enough. And, every single day there are a thousand things we don’t get done because of the other thousand things we had to do instead. In the meantime, Tim and I miss opportunity after opportunity to see our children smile or hear them laugh or sit with them and play or just listen to them. Not to mention the fact that we become strangers to each other. We miss these opportunities and forget to notice each other because we are not following the Tao (the way). We are on the violent, smashing-through train of productive, working life – which, upon not too much reflection, sometimes seems like the least productive process of all.
And, every time we sing our song and are holding hands around our table of chocolate chip pancakes with all the accoutrements, I feel like we are following the way. Like we didn’t violently demand this moment from time but that we simply, quietly, pushed past time to make our breakfast and what happened in the process was that we forged our own path. We figured out a way to notice each other and love each other and embrace each other that might not have happened without chocolate chip pancakes.
And sometimes, I have been able to breathe deeply and figure out how to make a day more like chocolate chip pancake day. I think when I’ve succeeded, I’ve smiled more. I’ve done what needed to be done, without whining about it. And, I find ways to enjoy what I’m doing as much as I can. I gently work around and push quietly against the obstacles – rather than trying to smash-through them with anger. I open my eyes and notice things I don’t want to miss like my daughter’s smile and my son’s laughter, like crickets chirping, or the sound of waves on Lake Michigan, or the intoxicating smell of my garage, or the safe, comfortable way my husband makes me feel when he’s around.
May you, too, cook and eat with love!
Vaya Con Dios!