Tuesday, November 28, 2017

"To Gather Together"


"Can you come and stir this pan of sauce for a minute?” Daniel’s mother called to him from the kitchen. She was trying to do too many things all at once, as usual. He hopped up from the couch and took over the wooden spoon.
“Smells good,” said Daniel, taking a deep breath in through his nose, and letting it out with a sigh. His mother laughed, and pointed to a big empty tin of red sauce on the counter. “It’s a secret family recipe,” she whispered with twinkling eyes. “But I added the onions all by myself.” Daniel liked helping in the kitchen more at the beginning of a meal than at the end of it. The house rule was that kids had to help either cook or clean, so whenever he was invited to prepare the meal, he jumped on the opportunity. Making dishes dirty was far more fun than washing dirty dishes. He stirred the pasta sauce around and around, making sure to scrape along the bottom so nothing sat there long enough to burn. As he stirred, he thought about the snow. It hadn’t snowed very much -- it hardly ever snowed very much in the city -- but two nights ago there had been a good thick frost all over the cars and leaves in the neighbourhood, and last night it had begun to snow about an hour before he went to bed. He’d watched transfixed from their back door as the soft white flakes melted into the ground, turning invisible right in front of his eyes. It was melting on the ground, but those little water crystals stayed solid on the wooden deck behind the house. Tiny layer upon layer the snowflakes worked together to form a blanket of snow, thin as a sheet of paper, as delicate as a spider’s web. By morning, the whole house had been covered over in white. It was supposed to snow again later that evening, and maybe this time it would last. The pan of sauce began to bubble, so Daniel reduced the heat, allowing the pan to simmer away without risk of it boiling over. It was quite a full pan tonight. “Are we having company?” he asked. Daniel’s mother shook her head. “No, but it is more than we need. I’m making double dinner so we can bring it over to Gran’s place tomorrow. She’s caught herself a flu, so a few of us have organized to take over meals until she’s better. Poor thing. The flu is no joke, especially for grandparents.” “Why can’t Gramps cook for her?” Daniel’s mother laughed again. She was full of laughter. “That man hasn’t cooked a proper meal in decades,” she said. “I don’t know that he could prepare even this meal of tinned sauce and noodles without her help. Besides, it’s a good chance for their community to pitch in and show them some love.” “Who else is bringing meals?” he asked. “A few neighbours, one lady from church, Auntie Maddie, and us,” she replied, dipping a spoon into the sauce for a taste-test. She cracked a bit of black pepper to the pan, and Daniel kept stirring. He thought about the people who had brought them food, back when things were a bit difficult at home. Their community had worked together to love on his family too, offering casseroles and homemade breads, cut-up veggies, roasted chickens, and occasionally tinned sauce and noodles. It was a bit like the snowflakes, he thought: individuals working together to have a bigger effect on the world than any of them could alone. He tried to explain this idea aloud, but tripped over his thoughts. His mother understood what he meant anyway. She was full of understanding. “I think it is like the snow,” she agreed. “One act of kindness building up upon another until the whole world looks kinder for the effort. It’s a lovely thought.” She turned off the stovetop elements and drained the pasta, called Eddie to the table, and served up their meals. After dinner, Eddie and their mum cleared their plates to the kitchen and started tidying up. This time, Daniel stayed to help. “You’ve already been quite cooperative tonight,” commented his mother. “You’re free to do something else if you’d like to go.” “I know,” said Daniel. “But I’m going to pitch in extra tonight, and show you some love.” Daniel packed the leftovers into plastic containers, while Eddie wiped down the table and counters and his mum scrubbed out the pots and pans. When they were all finished, they got into the car and delivered their meal to Gramps and Gran. Auntie Maddie was there too, dropping off her contribution. At the end of the night, the snow fell again -- coming together, flake by flake, transforming the world.

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