October Gifts

Gifted: having great natural ability

Gifted: To make a gift of 

Tuesday V now has afterschool/respite for four hours in the afternoon. One more time during the week when he gets a break from the monotony of his parents and house and the sameness of life, at least inside. Outside, change is constant: the days get shorter, the leaves are just starting to turn shades of gold and orange, the breeze gets stronger and cooler, requiring sweatshirts to come out of storage. 

As we were waiting for him to be picked up – about an hour late, but who’s counting – a car pulls up and I tell him to come out for his ride. But it’s not his ride, it’s a friend dropping off a bag of Crispin and Mutsu from her weekend apple picking outing. She’s part of a small informal support group I meet with (via Zoom of course) on Mondays, when we share all the heartbreaking and anxiety-inducing – and sometimes happy – tales of raising kids with major mental health issues or disabilities. About a half hour of intense sharing/listening and then about five minutes of recommended watching, because we all need breaks from our lives. This week it was the documentary The Social Dilemma, where tech experts explore the dangerous human impact of social networking, and for levity, the final season of Schitt’s Creek (I am a huge fan of the Levy’s of Toronto and the brilliant Catherine O’Hara). I take the bag of apples and wait with V on the stoop, where five minutes later his ride arrives.

I find a recipe for apple muffins, gather the ingredients and put on a recording of my sister-in-law participating in a radio program about civil discourse. https://whyy.org/episodes/civil-dialogue-how-do-we-talk-to-each-other/

It couldn’t be more timely, this idea of actually listening to others with different opinions, treating each other with respect, having an exchange of ideas that allows for, even embraces, difference. The friendship of two of the Supremes, RBG and Antonin Scalia, is cited as an inspired example, a relationship bonded by a love of opera and the law and public service, despite how diametrically opposed their viewpoints were. Perhaps they are up in heavenly court, if you believe in such things, listening to music and once again enjoying each others’ company.

I’m feeling grateful. For the apples and the recording and this time to myself, alone yet connected. Caregiving an older teen is isolating enough but the pandemic makes it all the more pronounced and I spend far too much time yearning for a way out, a way past this sense of confinement that keeps us in this house, which V’s hyperactivity and impulsiveness shreds into chaos on a daily basis. I should be cleaning up, not adding to the mess, but the apples provide such a welcome excuse to bake that I pull out my ingredients and promise to clean up after myself.

Apples are grated and coarsely chopped, I’m feeling too impatient and lazy to cut them properly (and as a self taught cook my knife skills are lacking) and big chunks of apples are folded into the dry ingredients, then mixed with yogurt, agave, coconut oil. While they’re in the oven the house fills with a glorious smell – no wonder realtors advise baking before an open house – and I actually do clean up my mess.

The muffins come out golden brown and perfectly done and absolutely delicious. I love when that happens. It didn’t take any great talent or skills to make, but I’m appreciative all the same. Especially now, when so much of what I am doing with my time are things that I am not especially good at. Being a teacher three days a week, pleading with V dozens of times each day to please sit back down as he wanders back and forth from the computer screen where his nice teacher and aides and fellow students seem to be able to stay in their squares on the screen while he flits in and out. Being a caregiver who is burnt out. Being a housekeeper who is far from fastidious. “Presentable” is the goal, especially for those few hours when the home therapists come and I don’t want them to be horrified by the sight of our house.

I am adequate or modestly competent at these things I must do, but on a daily basis there’s so little time for where and what I am most gifted at and unless V’s disposition mellows or I’m willing to give up on sleep I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

April may be the cruelest month but October is the most challenging in certain ways. Among the most beautiful times of year – the crisp air, the bright leaves, the seasonal food, the energy, and for me, the birth of B right in the middle, one of the happiest moments of my life. And yet it forbodes darkness and cold. We set back clocks on November 1st, and late afternoon walks will stop. The sweatshirts won’t be quite enough and other layers will be needed. There will be boots. There may be shovels. There will be even more time inside the house and this year perhaps even worse if COVID rates rise again. I know it does no good to think of this now in these glorious days and yet my mind drifts ahead. Apples, pumpkins, squash. Stay present I tell myself. I’m gifted right now and I can’t help if it doesn’t last. I’ll have to find other gifts in the darkness. Poets always do. And cooks can create with the humblest of ingredients.

We’ll stew and roast and try to find warmth and dark humor to keep us going in the unwritten days ahead.

2 thoughts on “October Gifts

  1. I hope your support group reads your blog. I’m sure they would appreciate it on so many levels. But this week especially how your turned the gift of apples into muffins and the gift expanded itself to give you the opportunity to bake and fill all your senses. Glad we will be enjoying the fall together on the 17th. Susie


  2. This post with apples featured was a wonderful gift from you to me! Here’s to warm kitchens and new netflix diversions in the months ahead.




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