Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Because that's what people do

Hazel: Well, that's how life is, Lars.
Mrs. Gruner: Everything at once.
Sally: We brought casseroles.
Lars: Thank you. [looks around the sewing circle. The three ladies are knitting and doing needlepoint] Um, is there something I should be doing right now?
Mrs. Gruner: No, dear. You eat.
Sally: We came over to sit.
Hazel: That's what people do when tragedy strikes.
Sally: They come over, and sit.
These lines from this movie have been in my head all day. (Thank you internet in general and Google in particular for confirming this is a real movie quote and I am not crazy.) It's a weird, beautiful movie but this scene struck me in particular when I saw it the first time. There are so many cultural examples of this: tragedy strikes or is striking so you bring food, and you sit. When my sister had her first baby (not tragedy, certainly, but a major medical event) I brought knitting and granola bars and sat. When she had her second baby I was ready to do the same but his quick arrival meant I didn't even get out my needles. From funerals and wakes I've attended, I remember food and I remember groups of people, just sitting together. When someone is ill, in pain, tired, sad, or in trouble the instinct I have or the behavior I have learned from my family is to feed them, cover them in blankets, and sit with them. I think it's the most comforting thing you can do. We all know you can't do anything to heal heartbreak, so you take care of the body as best you can until the spirit comes around to a better place. It's the best gift you can give a person, your presence. And maybe a casserole and a handmade afghan to go with it. 
These are the reasons I love cooking and knitting: they are simple, tangible expressions of love. Whether it is for myself of for another person, every ingredient or stitch, every move of the needle or circle of the wooden spoon is from a place of love. They are ancient crafts that make me feel connected to the people who have made their love real through the ages in these ways. They are instruments to forge connections with the people you love in their time of need. They can even reach forward, the way my grandmother's Apple Cake recipe connects us even long after she's gone or the afghan my other grandmother made connects us long after she's stopped crocheting.

So when tragedy strikes, when your heart is full of love, in the good times and the bad times, just remember: feed the stomach, warm the body, and just go and sit.


  1. This really makes sense. I really am just starving all the time lately and wrap myself in blankets when I go to bed, and I was more lonely than ever during this go-around with Eric being away at school. Big life stuff is happening and I didn't even realize that I was craving these things, not in those terms. I did just want someone to do my grocery shopping or bring over a meal, and I did want someone to sit with me. I miss you, my friend! And I will come bring you a meal and cover you up and sit with you anytime you need.

  2. My poor Liz! That's it, I'm coming down with a car full of casseroles and blankens! :) I completely understand what you're saying and sometimes it helps me to look at things like grocery shopping and cooking as me loving myself. Not as much fun as someone else doing those things, but they are loving acts whether you are loving someone else or yourself. I miss you too, my friend! I'm going to hug your guts out the next time I see you!