Something happened. Something went wrong, or maybe it didn’t. Words that interrupted my idle thoughts as I stood at the kitchen sink, face-to-face with dinner’s aftermath, cannot be taken back. Even as I feel the blood rush through my legs and the empty space grow in my soul, I find solace in a cupcake. It’s the last one, hidden in the back corner of the freezer, leftover from a forgotten celebration. Rich chocolate of the most devilish kind, with a perfectly swirled pink vanilla piped frosting, made extra special with a fairy dusting of sparkling sugar…gone in an instant. The experts would probably call this emotional eating. Alone on it’s plate, it beckoned, and I ate it.
If I get out to the coop at just the right time, I can get an egg that still feels warm to the touch. Fresh from it’s laying hen, this egg rides in the cup holder of my car as I take the baby in to town for therapy. It acccompanies me across the road to the mailbox. I hold it gingerly in my hand as I look around the farm, thinking of the blooms that will pepper the summer’s garden and imagining the tiny herd of goats that might one day entertain us in the pasture. Everything seems to hold a bit more promise as I am reassured by the blue-green chicken egg that brings so much to me.
It’s an egg. I could get a dozen eggs for a little more than a dollar at the grocery store.
After what seemed like two hours but was actually just over ten minutes, I could feel his body melt into mine. He made his way to the pink chair, my favorite one. The storm had subsided, and Dan was home by now. There were no more cupcakes, but I could get my egg basket, and I could see if there were any eggs to gather. Even if the hens were done laying for the day, I would breathe the peace of the outside air and know that in this moment, I am okay. We are okay, right now. Even if I returned to the house with an empty basket, I would know, because of what it represents, that the basket is actually quite full, if not of eggs.
There might be different things inside the basket on a given day. Pink sparkly cupcakes, my best well worn sweater, the anticipation of my sister’s visit, my special water bottle, the thought of my fairy roses and my Christmas milk punch: these are in my basket. In it I can also find the way it feels when all is quiet, when I am washing the last plate, when bedtime has blanketed the little ones in a soft hush (at least for a few hours), when I am able to sneak down to the cellar to start my onion seeds in their fresh peat pots, and when the promise of spring is tangible in the form of garden catalogs that have begun to arrive two-a-day by mail.
To me, it’s much more than just an egg.
There are people, many people, in my egg basket, which is also full of robust donut shop coffee and baseball. These people fill me up when I most need them, and even when I don’t know what I need. One brings me ice cream in the middle of the night, another sends me a message that makes my stomach hurt from laughing, and another came to sit with me and did not mention one word about the cheese that stuck to the bottom of her shoe as she walked through my kitchen.
When the questions are bigger than the answers after a quarter century of parenting, when the pancakes burned because I had to step away from the griddle to mediate a fight, when I don’t want to look past today for fear of what I might see, and even when someone has eaten the last secret cupcake, I can go to the chicken coop with my egg basket, and I know that I will feel better for having gone. Experts might think that this is emotional egg gathering. Though I am far from an expert, I think it might be.
I don’t think we can really know what is in someone else’s egg basket, at least not everything, anyway. It’s probably not even an egg. For our deepest friendships, yes, we sometimes do know some of what the basket holds, or we can do our best to try to figure it out. And even the thought of someone trying to understand what is inside can be enough to fill it up.
When the bread is baking, when my grown son calls to share his excitement at his new venture, when I take a minute to look at my vintage cookie jars, when my daughter’s eyes flash so brightly that I can nearly feel the warmth of her happiness, when the little boys drive their construction trucks in rare harmony, perched together atop the gravel pile; these are the times that I have enough to share my basket with others.
I might miss the glory of the Northern Illinois sunset if I don’t hurry out now to close the chicken door for the night. While I am out there, I will be sure to check for eggs one last time.