It’s Sunday evening and I’m cooking Brats and Peppers, a slightly greasy and very delicious meal that takes a while. You start by caramelizing the onions, then add the raw brats (cut in chunks), brown them, add some bell peppers and then let the whole thing simmer in beer for over an hour.
The onions were just starting to brown and my husband said, “I love the smell of onions cooking. It brings back so many memories.”
“Like what?” I asked, sprinkling liberal amounts of salt and pepper over the steaming pot.
He thought for a while. “It’s like the smell of marriage–the smell of you taking care of me joyfully.”
He’s smelled onions frying in olive oil since we’ve been together, the aroma rising from dishes that I’ve made over the years in Boomington, Indiana, when we were undergrads and then freshly married; in Newark, Delaware, in that small one-bedroom off of Main Street; here in Chicago during my experiments with Indian, Thai, Mexican–and to him, it’s become the smell of love.
Friday felt like a two-dimensional day to me. I worked from home and processed sales orders from customers. I took care of Alice–changing diapers, reading books, administering snacks of raisins and crackers. We went to the park, and I kept an eye on my phone. We ran errands. The whole day I felt like I was trying to rev my soul to get out of neutral and couldn’t quite do it. It was a fine day, but a bland day. I enjoyed parts of it, but it didn’t feel vibrant.
I know there will be many days like that in my future. For me (even though I’m reaching the point of really desiring to be a stay-at-home mom), days that I stay home with Alice can have the tendency to feel kind of . . . somnolent. Like I’m in a waking dream.
But that’s okay. Because through making countless dishes over the years, some cooked with joy and some cooked in a tired glaze, some cooked perhaps even in quiet frustration (but cooked after all), my husband now thinks of love when he smells onions.
If I am faithful to serve my daughter and take care of her in love even on those days when I feel like my vitality is drained and my creativity has died a slow death, I will be making her world more beautiful. I can help infuse her world with love and create beautiful associations that will stay with her–as subconscious or conscious impressions–the rest of her life. Just as a child can carry a fear of dogs with them into adulthood if they have a traumatic experience while they’re young, I can be an instrument in Alice’s life by tying love into every experience so that her world is (I pray) ringing with it.
Maybe as an adult she, too, will smell onions and remember how much I love her.
Keep alert, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love. (1 Corinthians 16:13-14)