The Giving Tree

When we moved into our home in May 2018, we inherited a mature apple tree in our front yard. For the past three autumns, we’ve reaped her bounty. The first year I filled up paper bags and strung them to our fence with a note that said, “free!” I was giddy with excitement to see if they would be taken. When I noticed only one bag gone the next day, I was bummed. So, I decided to post on the Nextdoor app. Next thing I know, there are people showing up with ladders and bags, for a U-Pick in our front yard. Between laughs, my husband remarked, “maybe you shouldn’t post to the WHOLE neighborhood next year.”

October came again. This time, we had a six month old baby girl. For a second time, we reaped our bounty and gifted the tree’s fruit to neighbors and friends. They presented us with applesauce and apple butter in glass jars. I played with my daughter beneath the shade as sunlight streamed between her branches.

Back in April, my husband finally pruned the apple tree for the first time. When September rolled around, we noticed we did not have as much fruit as the previous two years. He said this is common the first season after a pruning. I think about how we have all changed in the past year. My daughter is now 18 months, my son almost 4; and like our apple tree, it feels as though we’ve all gone through our own pruning. I personally have been pruned; certain conditioning and thinking has been cut off. Ignorance has been cut off. The need to impress has been cut off.

Most of us feel like 2020 has been a rotten year. A year that has yielded little to no fruit. However, what is fascinating to me is that our apples this season were bigger than they’ve ever been. There may have been fewer, but they were bigger. Maybe 2020 hasn’t been what we expected— but, what if the things that were cut off, gave space for us to nourish what matters the most?

This year, in the year 2020, we were able to harvest some of our apples with my mom. After 8 months of not seeing each other, the longest we’ve gone, I got to witness the JOY on her face of holding her granddaughter, and plucking a piece of fruit from our tree, the giving tree.

After she left, I allowed myself one day of wallowing.

Then, I bagged up our green apples, attached the recipe for my Oatmeal Cookie Apple Crumble, and set off with my children to make our deliveries.

Dropping off the apples, I realized how much people have missed each other. Each home we went to, we were met with neighbors who were eager to chat. One neighbor even invited us into her home, which during these times, is saying a lot! The sadness I felt the day before, was replaced by an unexpected joy; a joy that comes when we give.

A powerful reminder that coronavirus isn’t the only thing that’s contagious. 😉

This post is part of a blog hop with Exhale—an online community of women pursuing creativity alongside motherhood, led by the writing team behind Coffee + Crumbs. Click here to view the next post in this series “Unexpected Joy”.

Returning to Shore

It is ironic that as I write this, my daughter is crawling on me and my son is driving a car on my foot.

There are many pictures I could post from the past two weeks that have depicted “rest”. I have been able to “rest” an extraordinary amount. My little sister who lives on the east coast, came to visit us in California. I had not seen her since September of last year. She had plans to fly out in March, but then, you know, a global pandemic happened. March turned to May;  surely this would be over by May, we all naively thought. May turned to June. The changing news and other family members’ varying opinions made it difficult to settle on a date. Finally, she booked a flight for the end of July.  Ten months, the longest I’ve gone without seeing my sister.

It had been 132 days since the start of quarantine when she arrived. 132 days of unrest. 132 days of roller coaster emotions, ‘doom and gloom’ news, political/social justice protests, and presumptive fear. 2020 has been anything but restful.

When I stop to think about the quality of my life, the definition of rest for me goes deeper than just “taking a day off from work” or “sleeping in”. Rest to me is being surrounded by people who are life giving, who fill my cup. As opposed to people (or things) that consume my time and cause me stress and unrest.

There was a funny meme circulating how the absence of community during quarantine caused people to “miss those they didn’t even like”. I have always opted for fewer, more meaningful friendships as opposed to casting a wider net. For me, these past 132 days have further solidified and deepened friendships with those that I knew were my “number ones” pre-Pandemic.

While my sister was visiting, we took a trip to Lake Tahoe, one of our favorite places. We packed our SUV tight; four adults, two kids, and a storage turtle-full on top. My sister and her girlfriend joining us was every mother’s dream. It felt like having two full time nannies with us, who never went off the clock.  Part of me is ashamed to admit that they did more for my kids on that trip than I did. My sister sat between my three year old and one year old the whole ride there and back – eight hours total. Due to the bedroom structure, I put my one year old’s pack n play in my sister’s room and she woke up with her every morning at 6:00 am. She cooked for us, changed diapers, wiped my toddler’s butt, applied sunscreen, packed beach bags and lunches, meal-prepped, took my daughter for a hike when she couldn’t nap, took my son on his first kayak ride, and babysat so my husband and I could go to dinner.

What did I do?

I rested. 

I laid on a beach towel and read a book. In the middle of the day, 210 miles from home, surrounded by strangers, socially distanced of course (#2020). Rest, in that immediate moment, was an hour’s worth of reading by the lake. However, in the broader sense, rest was the accumulated time spent with someone who added to my quality of life.

As moms, we are constantly in “survival mode”; then you add a global pandemic, and we are suddenly actually trying to survive in an alternate universe with no childcare, no school, no playgrounds and no play dates. As Leeana Tankersley wrote in Always We Begin Again:

“At some point, we need to exit survival mode – even if it’s for an hour or two a week- and learn how to practice the kind of rest that brings us back to the moment instead of taking us out to sea.”

My daily rest will not look like me reading a book solo on a beach. But, it can look like me writing this blog post at nap time, or listening to a podcast (Coffee + Crumbs) while preparing dinner. Taking little breaks in the day, asking myself what my body needs, or what fulfills my soul.

I’m so grateful for the time my sister spent with us and the many ‘breaks’ I had with her around. The day after she left, I was reminded how lonely motherhood is. How we can feel like we’re drifting out to sea.

We need rest and we need each other, to bring us back to the shore.  

 

This post is part of a blog hop with Exhale—an online community of women pursuing creativity alongside motherhood, led by the writing team behind Coffee + Crumbs. Click here to view the next post in this series “Rest — A Photo Essay”.