In desperation, I went to the store to get a pack of those frozen chimichanga burritos. It’s the 8 pack that sells for $3.59.
I came home with a lot of high priced organic root vegetables instead. I don’t know what happened. The red beets went into my cart, and then the golden beets, and then the turnips, ten pounds of gala apples on sale, black beans, cheddar cheese, milk, avocados…..at home I already had carrots, onions, sweet potatoes, quinoa…..
So I came home and chopped vegetables for 40 minutes. It gave me plenty of thinking time. And chopping veggies for 40 minutes would give you lots of thinking time, too.
You can think about things like how to construct a health insurance system that makes sense. Or peace in the Middle East. Or you can think about whether or not the course of the last election could have been changed if only our deranged candidates had been forced to spend a month living in our house with us–you know, eating supper with us, homeschooling the classical way, wondering when the freelance checks might show up, figuring out how to pay medical bills, going to church with us, teaching the kiddos basic things like how to be kind and how to tell the truth.
Or you can think about fun times you have in the sane world. Times like this:
It’s a snapshot with a glimmer of true light, even on a gray rainy day, and even in a sad culture that has generally lost sight of what it means to be a human boy child.
The neighborhood kids, boys mainly, swarmed my house on a recent Sunday afternoon. They came on foot from down in the cul-de-sac and on bike from a few blocks away. One boy trudged, mostly dutifully, escorting his younger sister. The boys who don’t yet have roaming privileges got dropped off by minivan. Along with my three youngest children, they altogether made a pack of ten.
Within minutes of their gathering I looked in the backyard to see them running wildly down our hill. Already each boy had grabbed a stick, or in one case, a slender aluminum pipe!, and were war whooping their intentions.
I joked with the wisely cautious father who had brought his sons by car that I hoped these hollering boys were more Peter Pan than Lord of the Flies.
The boys were gleeful in their planning. They divvied up the young ones and girls so that each squad had some semblance of a fighting chance, somehow they managed to agree on a goal and hashed out a few rules. And so off, out of my sight, they went to run and knock sticks. Up and down the drainage ditch (which we kindly call a creek) they ran; up and down our steep hill they ran; up and down the front section of our street they ran.
For an hour these boys—these eight-year-old to twelve-year old boys and their two sisters—sortied and retreated, hollered and whispered, nabbed the enemy and died the glorious stick battle mock-deaths that only proper boys can die.
And now after an hour of running up and down our obnoxious hill, some of the boys were beginning to get tired. The girls had already quit to play “fort.” My skinny, racoon-hat-wearing, camo-shirt sporting ten-year-old, though, desperately wanted to play on. As I heard it told to me by his siblings, he brandished his stick and very loudly started calling out the St. Crispin’s Day Speech. I was genuinely surprised: I’d required my homeschooled kids to memorize it and had put up with a good bit of their grumbling about the task and now here he was, with joy in the heat of battle, proclaiming it to his best buddies:
He which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man’s company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
In case you wonder what happened, Shakespeare hollered by a ten year old ends a game.
Thus, they came inside and played puzzles and made good natured fun of him for barking Shakespeare at them; within the hour they were all back outside, now in the rain, inventing a game with a ball.
They made up games. They played in the rain. They laughed at their friend for using Henry V on them. These are boys.
Many people, people whom I dearly love, are deceived. They don’t yet see how our culturally inculcated materialism, our worship of achievement and status makes it hard to trust that it is excellent to let children just….play, to play war with sticks, shout literature at one another, get wet and soaked in the rain because it’s delightful.
None of what those ten children experienced on a Sunday afternoon can be found staring lonesome at a screen, or standing on the soccer field sidelines wearing protective gear while Coach Bob coaxes them to pay attention, or in the silly stories they’d read from the prescribed fifth-grade reading list at Check-The-Box-On-The-Lastest-New-Standard Elementary, or in sterile neighborhoods where children are kept safely tucked away and plugged into their well-appointed and giant houses, or standing alone in the kitchen mindlessly scarfing down a tepid microwaved frozen burrito.
But back to the root vegetables.
Chop, toss with olive oil. Spread out on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and herbs if you have them. Bake for about 20 minutes at 425. Saute the beet stems and greens in something tasty like bacon grease. Carmelize some onions in copious amounts of butter. Serve with a side of quinoa.