Last week Madeline put a plush red strawberry up to her mouth and chomped a juicy mouthful right out of the center. Drops of strawberry juice made trails down her chin as she mashed fruit flesh — open mouthed — between her four little molars. Tiny tributaries coursed down her forearms towards her elbows and met in small puddles on the floor. Madeline was happy. She looked absentmindedly out the window at plants blowing above the whirling AC unit.
I noticed her happiness, but immediately observed a strange, innocent kind of nonchalance about it. The lusciousness of the strawberry and the time to sit and savor it seemed kind of old-hat. Here was her perfect life, a perfect moment, yet she didn’t know anything was perfect at all. How could she possibly know? Enjoying yourself fully requires some level of being aware that you are, well, enjoying yourself fully. She can’t do that yet.
I suppose the day will come when her mental capabilities will allow her to imagine the smell of a taught red strawberry and realize she will have to do without it for a moment, or a day, or a few months until summer when they’re back in season. She will then forget it, waiting for it without realizing she is waiting for it, and when the surprising day arrives and cut strawberries appear atop a bed of shortcake-and-cream right under her nose, something new will well up inside her.
This weekend, my mom, sister and aunt drove a couple hours north to the thriving metropolis of Paris, TX to visit my grandparents. My grandmother has always been a great cook, but it had been so long since I had sat in her dining room and enjoyed the fruits of her labor — the way the spoon cuts into the cobbler crust and pulls up running mouthfuls of peaches and cream; how bites of breakfast sausage crackle between your molars with perfect cast-iron flavor. Maybe it was because I’ve been mothering since 2007 and haven’t had time to properly enjoy a meal; maybe it was because it was a meal I didn’t have to cook; maybe it was because it was my grandmother’s handiwork on display. Maybe all of that, plus a growing realization that if things are right, if things are beautiful and pleasant, it usually meant someone went to a lot of trouble.
I really rested in that cobbler. I really sat down in that sausage patty like it was a hammock and swung back and forth. I jumped up and down on the pancakes like trampolines and plunged deep inside the enchiladas like a cave explorer, looking for gold. And maybe with enough sweat and tears, with enough time spent hauling toddlers down grocery aisles and meticulously planning meals, maybe one day when she is 31 years old, hopefully, Madeline will also be able to see the grandeur of little perfectly formed moments.
Or at least, the grandeur of a perfect strawberry.
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