Walking past the Fellowship Hall kitchen, during summer Vacation Bible School at my school/church, the smell of fruit hits me, sticky, sweet in the early morning air. I peek into the kitchen and see my grandmother Bonnie, my great aunts, Shirley and Cleo among other older ladies of the church, cutting up cantaloupes, watermelons, pineapples, and honeydews. These were no nonsense ladies from Nebraska, from Arkansas, from Oklahoma. Women with their white hair, aprons and housedresses. These were the type of ladies who not only thought it was a sin to gossip but a luxury they would never afford.
What did they talk about? Were there even murmurs in that kitchen or was it pure silence? No music. No singing. These were not women who would pat my red head as I passed them by or give me a little squeeze. They didn’t pop a piece of ripe cantaloupe in their mouth as they chopped. They simply cut, chopped, diced, sorted into dixie bowls. This was the morning snack for the Vacation Bible School kids, including me. Fruit I normally would not have a home. Fresh fruit that was not from a tree in our yard was a treat, a luxury. I looked forward to 10am when I’d be passed one of these bowls along with a little plastic fork. Was it duty? Was it a job that needed to be done so they signed up to do it? Was it an act of service to God? Not sure which but with each bite, I felt loved.
I never felt I was like these women. I am more emotive. I laugh loudly. I never thought I was like anyone in my family until depression hit in college and I remembered my other grandma, the one who lived across the street. Sometimes her curtains were closed and we knew she would not open the door to us or answer her phone.
I live with chronic depression. Many know this about me but I am also surprised by how many do not. A dear friend of 15 years was shocked when I mentioned it in passing while telling a story. I am usually able to keep it under control with a fierce combination punch of exercise, routine and social time.
But today, I kept the doors and windows closed just in case someone stopped by. I didn’t hang around at drop off at school. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I didn’t do much of anything as I tried not to think about how depressed it was. How any task, even simple seemed daunting to me. The day was mostly spent working myself up to picking up my boys from school. Usually on days like this I try not to have to get out of the car. Today those days of high school theater help me. At pick up, I take a second to adjust my body, to look like a normal person, back straight, shoulders back, although the reality is that I don’t hold myself that straight when I am well. I’m freer, easier.
We get home and I know I have to jump into homework, violin practice and making dinner. This is where my routine helps me get back in line. I work through it without extra chatter. I go through the homework list. I correct mistakes. I offer little praise. I just want to get through it. When it comes time to make dinner, there is nothing I’d like less to do. I decide to keep it simple and make eggs and tortillas. I know we need some sort of side to round out the meal. I grab a half cut watermelon from the fridge. The boys have sliced apples and strawberries they didn’t finish from lunch. I grab a few oranges and bananas from the fruit bowl. I began chopping in huge chucks and toss into a bowl. My son comes in to show me a lego creation yet I don’t look. I am focused. I need to get this finished. I need to at least feed the boys.
Then it hits me. I want them to feel loved through the very least I can do tonight. I can cut fruit and make eggs for dinner. That’s about all I can do. I realize I am more like my grandmother and aunts than I thought. I have a task and I’m trying to accomplish it.
My boys settle in for dinner. They are elated by the fruit salad I’ve made. There is something nurturing about taking the time to cut it all up for someone, instead of just thumping a whole apple on their plate. The boys keep taking scoops of it onto their plate, seconds, thirds and tell me this is the best dinner ever. The fruit tastes like love.