Monday mornings are rushed and somewhere in the hustle and little girls streaking by looking for backpacks and shoes I glance down and realize that I am missing my watch and my wedding band. It still takes me a moment to bring to mind their location – the shelf in the bay window over my kitchen sink.
Try as I may, I am not always the best at honoring the Sabbath, or at least doing it the way I imagine it should be done. Somewhere in my mind are pictures of candles lit, soft music playing, and a family tucked around a fire, each with their own book as a way to remember the week that passed and birth the new week into existence. There is a quiet solemnity in this picture – something almost ethereal.
Sundays in my home are spent in a different way, and the sounds of the referee’s whistles blowing from the TV in the living room and the rustle of pompoms as my oldest creates Steelers cheers is just as beautiful to me.
Sunday smells of garlic, onion, wine, and tomato on my stove top.
My husband is half Italian. He tells stories of his grandparents who barely spoke English. He doesn't remember a lot, but he remembers the table. He remembers the food. And so I took it upon myself to attempt to master meatballs and gravy (gravy sounds so much more Italian than sauce you know). I am quite certain that I don’t do it in any authentic manner, yet my husband once told me they were the best he ever had, and since he is not prone to complement just to make me feel good, I hold tight to his words with quiet pride.
On Sunday afternoons after church, I try to lay out some easy finger foods so they can all help themselves. Leftovers, sandwiches, cheese and crackers, sometimes chili that I put in the crockpot that morning – whatever it is doesn't matter. As long as there is food – and it is plentiful – then I have done my part and can start dinner.
First I make the meatballs. It is now that I take off my watch, take off my ring, and set them on that sunny shelf that looks out to the neighbors back deck. I plunge my hands in the ground meat, egg, breadcrumbs, shredded zucchini, Parmesan and medley of spices. I used to hate the cold feeling of the meat and egg, but almost ten years into this marriage, it now feels like home. I roll them into balls and place them on the baking sheet. My oldest is sitting at the counter next to me, drawing and creating. She tells me she can’t wait to eat them and I can see that she is now watching me form each meatball. I angle my body so I can see her and tell her stories about how her Daddy’s grandparents spoke Italian and would say “Mange! Mange!,” to him until he ate all his food. We talk about what she learned in Sunday school. She tells me what she’s been talking to God about.
We put the meatballs in the oven and get to the sauce. Onion, garlic, and spices slowly sweat out and then the splash of wine. More shredded or pureed vegetables (whatever is leftover in the fridge) go in and then the tomato sauce. A pinch of sugar and salt is all it needs. By now the meatballs have browned enough to be put into the sauce to finish cooking. The pan will sit on low the rest of the afternoon until my husband can’t take it anymore and begins to eat them right out of the pan.
Being in this house, our home, has made me nostalgic and I think often of the memories my girls will carry with them. Our photo albums are filled with Disney, parks, zoos, swimming pools, and dance recitals. But I suspect that the memories that are etched deepest into their hearts and minds will be the things that are rarely photographed.
I imagine them remembering the way that my hands smell of garlic on Sunday nights as I comb out their hair after their bath. The way that I tell them to make sure they always add the garlic after the onion so it doesn't burn. How when we make brownies we always use a fork to stir because I am convinced it works better than a spoon. That an important part of each and every day is cuddle time. Old hymns sung in the car; dance parties in the living room. And bread that is baked and kneaded at home is far superior to any other bread and must be consumed in its entirety in one day.
That sitting on the couch, cuddled in blankets on a Sunday afternoon watching football is just as holy as anything else you can do after church. And that God is somewhere in the gravy.