We’ve cleared the table of our dirty dinner dishes. I stand at the kitchen sink and begin to rinse them. The scalding water cascades down each plate and fork beginning to wash away the grime. My son works next to me, unloading the dishwasher. In what has been one of his evening household chores for years, he talks as he works through his routine. He tells of his day – a funny moment between friends, the details of an upcoming project, his thoughts on his new high school football coach. “I don’t think this one got all the way clean.” The statement interrupts his stream of thoughts. He hands me the Tupperware bowl and I examine it. As he said, it isn’t all the way clean. A reddish-orange residue remains as evidence of the pizza sauce from the night before. Thinking something had blocked the steamy, soapy dish washing, I rinse it again and set it back in the dishwasher for another round.
Two days later, amidst the same dishwashing routine, he passes the Tupperware bowl back to me again. The residue is notably lighter, but still, the staining remains obvious. “Hmmmm,” I pause. I fill it with hot, soapy water again, but this time, I let it soak.
He leans over to see the pancake batter as I mix, his elbows resting on the countertop and his legs kneeling in a stool much too big for his three-year-old body. His attention wavers between me, as I add flour, sugar, milk, eggs and vanilla to the Tupperware bowl, and the cartoon playing on TV. Saturday morning pancakes are our weekly rhythm. He asks, like he does every weekend, for chocolate chips to be sprinkled into the pancakes, but as his preference, there is no syrup in sight. I’ve doubled the recipe as I do each week.Some pancakes we eat today, but most we freeze for weekday breakfasts. After breakfast, I rinse the Tupperware bowl and set it in the dishwasher.
“Can we have cornbread with dinner tonight?” he asks, popping into the kitchen for a drink of water. As I cook, he helps with whatever I ask him to do. He sets the table and fills the kitchen’s conversation with interesting facts about Legos and Battlebots. I preheat the oven and pull the Tupperware bowl from the cabinet. I dump in the cornbread mix and add the wet ingredients. As I mix it with fork to break up any
clumps, I scrape the sides to make sure it is all combined well. I fill the glass dish with the cornbread mixture and slide it into the oven. He comes alongside me and flips the oven light on. “Thank you, mom,” he grins, “how long until dinner is ready?” I rinse the Tupperware bowl as I answer, “Thirty-ish minutes.”
“What kind of cake would you like for your birthday?” I ask, already anticipating the answer and pulling out the Tupperware bowl. There wouldn’t be a party on this quarantined birthday, but thirteen years of life would be celebrated with as much chocolate as we can cram into a cupcake. Quadruple chocolate cupcakes it is: chocolate cupcakes, filled with chocolate chips, topped with chocolate icing and a mini Hershey bar on top. I measure and mix and discreetly (he will turn up his nose if he knows!) add a little coffee to enhance the chocolate flavor. With my spatula I scrape almost all the batter into the cupcake pan. Suddenly he’s beside me with a grin. I hand him the spatula, and he licks the bowl clean. “It’s delicious,” he declares as he drops the Tupperware bowl in the sink and plants a kiss on my cheek.
Before starting dinner, I pour the previously-hot-sudsy-now-room-temperature water out of the Tupperware bowl and down the drain. After soaking for a day, the Tupperware bowl still doesn’t look squeaky clean, but I struggle to toss it into the recycling bin.
Hearing the commotion of the front door open, my son walk into the house and our puppy sprint to greet him, pauses my reflection. He tosses his backpack into a chair at the counter and opens the refrigerator for a snack. He turns to visit with me a moment before cleaning up from football practice. “Still not clean?” he asks, eyeing the Tupperware Bowl. “I just can’t throw it away,” I acknowledge. He shrugs and switches the conversation to a recap of his day.
A few minutes later, he’s upstairs and I’m left alone in the kitchen. Suddenly I know, my nostalgia is not actually about the stained Tupperware bowl. It’s the feeling of holding on to the fleeting moments. Our routines and rhythms of Saturday morning pancakes, chocolate cupcakes and cornbread dinners are changing, and I’m not sure my momma heart is ready.
Solomon tells us throughout Ecclesiastes “Everything is a meaningless vapor and mist” – wealth, companionship, wisdom. And sometimes, my days feel like this – gone so quickly. According to my ParentCue app, I have 116 more weeks until my son “moves on to what’s next.”
But in chapter 9 Solomon’s tone is different, he encourages us to live our lives for that is our portion. Then in chapter 12 Solomon concludes, “Fear God. Do what he tells you.” (Ecc. 12:13 MSG) And so I do, I lovingly tend to my people with breakfasts and treats and time in the kitchen. This is my prayer:
Heavenly Father, I know you know this isn’t actually about the Tupperware bowl. It’s about quickly fleeting time. I release these remaining 116 weeks to you. Give me an extra measure of stamina to care for my son well and wisdom to listen to his heart not just his words, so through me, he knows of Your unending love. -Amen