The Perfect Bite

Last week I got to guest post on Bring Joy, a fabulous site for anyone interested in health, happiness and fun. So basically....everyone. When Janae asked me if I would like to write for Bring Joy, I was well, joyful. Being a mom is hard work. And whether Janae is writing about vegan cookies (I tried them, they are delicious), exercise (her tutorials are fantastic) or planning a birthday party, she shows me how to find the bright shiny moments while embracing this crazy thing called motherhood.

Below is the essay I wrote for Bring Joy. And, I know, surprise-surprise, food plays a very prominent role. But you know what I am proud of? I didn't mention bacon once. Nope, not once.

Bacon. Bacon. Bacon.

There, that feels so much better.

As a kid I was a messy eater.

When presented with a plate of food, I saw opportunity. Sure, all the ingredients for a feast were there. But the composition and flavor pairings always left something to be desired. I spent the first few minutes of every meal dismantling, cutting, twirling, reconstructing, spreading and stacking. It was…disgusting. I never emerged from eating without something smeared on my face and my knuckles were regularly baptized in whatever I had been consuming. Put me in front of a plate of spaghetti and I was sauced up to my elbows. Around five years old, the whole thing went from cute to embarrassing.

I can still remember my mom apologizing to the waitress at the local breakfast place. I was just a few weeks into kindergarten and had ordered hash browns, pancakes and eggs. The cook behind the counter presented me with his best, but I knew I could do better. After some salting, peppering, ketchuping, syruping, a piece of egg here, that crisp bit of potato there, it was exactly what I knew a plate of breakfast should be. It was hard work. By the time our check came my bangs were stuck to the top of my head with a glob of syrup and an egg yolk had slipped off the plate and into my lap. The waitress smiled at me, what a…special girl. My mom laughed and swore she taught me how to eat properly. I giggled with them, but all I could think about was how that wasted egg yolk would have really put the entire thing over the top. Such a shame.

One day,in the middle of a particularly difficult sandwich reconstruction my dad asked me a question,

“Meggi, why are you always pulling everything apart and putting it back together?”

I tore my seven year old eyes away from stacking the creamiest bit of avocado on the crunchiest piece of crust and looked at him like he had asked me what color the sky was.

“Dad. I am making the perfect bite.”

Two decades later and things have become a bit more civilized. It has been at least four years since my mom has had to apologize for the way I conducted myself at the dinner table. I still see each plate as the holder of the perfect bite, but I am more restrained in my search. I use napkins. Forks and knives are now involved. I hardly ever get food on my knuckles. Unless, of course, it is something truly delicious. My, what a lady.

I may be a more pleasant dinner companion, but the quest for the perfect bite has now expanded beyond the table. I look at my life and I see the opportunity. All the ingredients for a feast are there, but the composition and flavor pairings often leave something to be desired. None of the things I am presented with are quite as straightforward as potatoes and eggs. I can’t always tell the best way to mix motherhood, wifedom and me. Sometimes I worry that if I stack too many of my own dreams onto the needs of my family the whole thing will topple down. There are instants of wholeness, when I have gathered up and tasted everything I hoped to have in one blessed, delicious moment. But there are also nights when I go to bed having made a mess of everything. Nights when I have to simply decide to wipe the egg off of my face and start again tomorrow.

And in the morning, I wake up to a day that the sun has just met. In the quiet before the children get up, I work to see the potential in the coming hours. The places that need a little spice, the bits I can’t imagine leaving untouched. The girls stir and I listen as they stretch and whisper and coo. Margaret comes out of the room all messed hair and puffed lips. Viola’s eyes reach over the crib. A deep breath. Alright. Time to dive in, time to cut and twirl and build. Sometimes I won’t get it right and heaven knows, we are all going to get a little messy. It is alright. It is worth it.

We are searching for the perfect bite.