Sunday after church: we tumble through the front door of Grandpa and Grandma’s house, kick off our Sunday shoes in a pile in the foyer, toss our coats over the banister, and run upstairs to play Oregon Trail on the computer, or downstairs to play foosball. Grandpa is peeling potatoes in the family room while he watches football, the skins in a damp heap on a newspaper on the coffee table, and he offers a raw, crunchy shred of russet to any kiddo who passes through. The smell of pot roast permeates every corner of every memory of the house so that I can’t recall it smelling any other way.
Eventually, we are called to the dining room where steaming bowls and platters await. We recite the Lord’s Prayer with the same tenor and pacing as the Pledge of Allegiance and pass-the-applesauce-please (I-want-the-frozen-chunk-in-the-middle). My elders reminisce about people with first names like Case and Clink, and I save a portion of my mashed potatoes for last, with gravy.
Even now, I can locate the place of hunger in myself for that meal and that time. It was before I realized I could legitimately beat my Grandpa at foosball. It was before I realized that it took work to put that meal on the table, and that someone had to negotiate with the dishes afterwards for well over an hour. It is a memory without peripheral vision, like pretending a paper towel tube is a telescope with one eye closed, and part of me likes it that way. But everything gets older, even me.
I now know that there were women in the kitchen. I know there was a cow in a feedlot, and fungi and bacteria in a field somewhere, preparing a spongy loam for tubers to tunnel into. I can’t go back in time to when my grandparents were still working age, and I can’t un-know the systems of people, plants, and animals that brought those Sunday feasts to our table, and while there’s grief in the passing of time, there’s also joy in the expanded field of vision.
I think about these things on a Saturday morning in June as we attempt to reclaim an old school yard from aggressive quack grass to grow tomatoes. The soil is sandy and dry, sliding back into each hole we dig for over 300 plants that my partner grew from seed in our basement. We will need to feed this earth if it’s going to feed us. Birds pluck insects from the newly turned rows and return a little of their own homemade compost to the soil in exchange, so we have help, even more than we can see. A few of these plants are likely to feed the hornworms, but the hornworms will feed the wasps so that the tomatoes can feed us and the scraps can feed the worms and the worms can feed the microbes and the microbes can feed next year’s tomato plants. It’s endless work, this sharing food business, but it’s good work and I wouldn’t mind doing it forever and ever, in a world without end, amen.
It’s why I want to believe in the resurrection of the body, with both eyes wide open.