You know how something happens, how you experience something or learn something, and you realize that nothing will ever be the same again? You realize that moment will forever separate time into the category of ‘before’ and ‘after’?
That happened to me last week.
My older two boys had an afternoon Volleyball game and I knew they’d be ‘starving’ when it was over. But I also knew that I’d be at the gym watching them instead of being home to prep supper. I wanted to have something ready when they walked in the door. Something filling and delicious. But my usual slow-cooker meals have been relegated to the category of prison food. (I really don’t want them to have to go to prison to learn the difference between my chili and prison chili, but a little gratitude would be appreciated. Not that I’ve been to prison and tasted the chili so would know the difference between mine and theirs, but I think I’m a good enough cook that I can top prison chili. I digress.)
My oldest has been a teenager for two short months and he is already almost 5’11” and wears size 12 shoes. His younger brothers are doing their best to catch up. Rob’s been busy working non-stop, and he’s always hungry. Suffice it to say, it’s hard to keep them all filled up. But one thing that always does the trick whilst bringing them joy, is mashed potatoes.
How was I going to make mashed potatoes if I wasn’t home? We live in the age of the internet, so I simply looked up recipes for slow-cooker mashed potatoes.
In a handful of minutes I’d peeled potatoes, dumped in some liquid and some seasoning, dolloped butter over the top of it all, plopped the lid on, plugged the contraption in, turned it on and I was out the door. Magic would happen while I cheered my boys on.
The game was exciting, my boys played hard, and our team hung on to their season-long undefeated streak. It was a happy, though tired, bunch that piled into the mini-van. After a quick recap of the game, the inevitable question was thrown at me, “Will supper be ready when we get home?”
I smiled. “Yes, it would be.”
My cheerful answer brought groans. “Seriously?! That means we’re having chili, doesn’t it?”
Because I’m dramatic, I only wiggled my eyebrows and smiled some more.
We walked in the door, they with the grim resignation of convicts, me in hopeful anticipation.
Let’s just say, they were blown away, and I was vindicated.
Everything has changed. Mashed potatoes are accessible – no longer reserved only for holidays or weekends – they can turn a Thursday night from ho-hum to yum-yum! (Cheesy. My comment, not the potatoes. Though adding cheese is never a bad thing.)
But as is the way with things, evidenced by the digestion process, what is delicious and filling doesn’t last forever. The warm feelings induced by love and mashed potatoes faded. Real life set in, and stresses bigger than mashed potatoes can solve crept back in. My sleep was restless that night (too many potatoes?) and I woke up near tears.
Rob tried to comfort me before heading off for work, but I couldn’t help crying. Why did I think mashed potatoes would solve all my problems? He gave me a hug, and said, “Honey, we’re Mennonites. Mashed potatoes won’t solve all our problems, but they go a long way. You did good.”
I guess slow-cooker mashed potatoes won’t change my whole life, but they’ll take me part of the way. They’ll put a smile on the face of hungry, growing kids I love more than my next breath. They’ll fill a hole in a man who works hard and sometimes comes home empty; a man I love in deeper ways than I often express.
Maybe at the end of the day, they’re just mashed potatoes. But they are what the people I love most need, and they are within my capacity to give. So I will give them with love. And just maybe, love and mashed potatoes will change our world.
By now you might be wondering why I took precious minutes of your time to talk about mashed potatoes? Well, because when something you love changes you, you want to share.
The irony that I currently have a pot of chili on the stove for supper tonight, is not lost on me. I will try to fancy it up with some tortilla chips and cheese and perhaps bribe them with cookies for dessert. Yes, they have to eat chili tonight, but there are mashed potatoes on the menu this week. Thus, they will learn a life lesson.