|Green Tomatoes Leftover from Summer
I was a doubter about the whole ripening-tomatoes-in-the-basement plan. Everybody said they would rot. Everybody said they wouldn’t taste the same.
My daughter and I journey to the basement late yesterday and sit cross-legged before a box of tomatoes wrapped in newspaper. Just a few weeks ago, we gathered all the green tomatoes from our garden before the first frost.
She unwraps the first one.
It’s a juicy deep red. It’s a brilliant and fragrant red.
We can hardly believe it. My daughter and I unwrap each red treasure. The experience is better than picking them off the vine. Add the element of doubt and surprise, and all of a sudden, we have a celebration on our hands.
We carry our produce to the kitchen. Outside, the cold wind blows. There’s a chance of snow, and the gray sky announces winter. But my kitchen says its summer–the kind with fresh tomatoes and a counter top full of vegetables.
|Roasting Tomatoes and Garlic
We get to work. The little one decides we must make homemade. . . something. We chop each tomato and roast them with cloves of garlic. Then we remove skins and seeds and blend the whole thing into a delicious soup. We’ve got grilled cheese sandwiches crisping and homemade garden tomato soup simmering.
I’m so thrilled that those tomatoes never ripened this summer. I’m so happy for that particular disappointment.
When Plan A fails, Plan B often turns out better–more magical–because of the unexpected, against-all-odds sort of outcome. The truth of it all hits me like the cold wind against this window. Plan A has to fail sometimes because God’s got a surprise in mind that I’ll unwrap when the cold wind blows, in the sorrow of a dark basement. That’s when I’ll need it most.
Yesterday, I hydroplane.
It’s terrifying. One minute you’re driving along the slick wet road, and the next minute, you’re flying. The tires lose their grip on the road. The steering wheel seems disconnected from the car. The vehicle swerves recklessly.
It’s out of control.
But just as quickly, the tire rediscovers the road. That clash, that beautiful resistance, keeps you centered in your lane and attached to the road.
I don’t want a easy life. I don’t want smooth sailing. It’s the friction that ties me to my path. It’s the clash against me that makes me function best. This sticky situation, this disappointment, this complaint reminds me of my need for God, of my absolute dependence, and of the reality of danger apart from that grip. It’s humbling and it’s uncomfortable sometimes. But it’s safe.
Those things I don’t want in my life just might be the friction I need to get to where I’m going.
School pictures never go well for us. Over the years, they always return with faces that more resemble mug shots than happy school pictures. One year, it actually looked my daughter was growling at the photographer. Another year, the oldest daughter’s eyes were half shut, and she had a haunting smirk on her face.
That year, our photographer friend rescued us. We met her at the studio in the mall, and for a comparable price, she created the most fabulous photo shoot for my daughters. They could choose all sorts of fun backgrounds, use props, and relax while the camera clicked away. Even better, this great photographer stopped and combed hair, adjusted clothing, and worked to capture the most authentic and vibrant smiles. We left an hour later with a package of prints to send to grandparents and aunts and uncles. And we could display two “school photos” in our living room that didn’t look terrifying.
Telling my daughter she wasn’t ordering school pictures this morning nearly sent her into a fit. That’s when my husband said, “You’re right. I want to make you miserable. I don’t love you at all.”
What she didn’t recall (and couldn’t know) was that his “no” meant a great “yes” and a trip to the mall later. And instead of 3 dull backgrounds, she would choose from a wide array of whimsical ones.
I throw fits in private to the Lord of the Universe about that cosmic “no” (whatever I’m not getting). But that “no” always, always ends with a better, more authentic and more vibrant “yes.” The things I want might just be bad set-ups–as torturing as school photos compared to glamorous photo shoots. When I see it that way, and when I hear that voice chuckling, “You’re right. I want to make you miserable. I don’t love you at all,” I realize how absurd my thinking is.
Do I really believe God withholds something to make me miserable? Because I’m not loved at all? Listening to my husband tease our daughter in the kitchen–and her delight in hearing the absurdity of it–made her actually beg for him to say it again. Even my older daughter wanted a reprise.
I want to make you miserable. I don’t love you at all. We giggled. We hugged. We realized the truth.
With so many tomatoes, how could I not make homemade sauce?
You take tomatoes and submerge them in boiling water for a few seconds. Then you drown them in ice water. Then you skin them. Then you remove their seeds. It feels like some torture process. I chop; I puree; I simmer everything down to a thick sauce.
You have to do it this way. No other process removes the bitterness; no other process releases the flavor.
My daughter’s helping me peel and chop garlic. We’ve been disappointed, bitter, all morning because she didn’t get the teacher she wanted for kindergarten. None of her friends are in her class. Head hung low, mouth in a frown, she’s experienced this first violent assault on her expectations, her hopes, her dreams for her life.
“Sometimes it’s like that,” the older one says. “But the best thing about kindergarten is making brand new friends. You’ll see.”
She will see. It is like that. No other process will teach her how to rise above her disappointment. No other process will release her from her rigid control of what must surely be the best life. Released like that, her life can be that sweet aroma–that beautiful flavor–of a person who knows how to find good in any pain.
No other process will do that for her.