Monday, November 29, 2010

Love in a Box

When I was a child I had many ideas about what it would be like to be a mom. I loved babies and actually enjoyed babysitting the neighbor’s children, even if there weren’t any good snacks in their cupboards. I assumed being a mom would be a lot like those long summer afternoons of being in charge of other people’s children. Needless to say, I was wrong.

Any mom would be able to tell you all the ways being the one in charge all the time is very different from being in charge for minor snippets of a child’s life. The day in and day out responsibility can wear you down. Keeping them in clean clothes and shoes. Making sure they have the right enrichment opportunities, even if that means a yearly trip to the local zoo. And then there’s the issue of food.

It’s hard to admit this, but sometimes I feel like the only mom who doesn’t like to cook. On every TV commercial and sit-com the mom is the one who creates amazing meals, day after day, with a smile on her face. That mom is not me. I’ve always said that if my kids didn’t need food to survive, we wouldn’t even need a kitchen in our house.

A couple of times a year I can get into making a nice meal. But that’s the problem. When you’re the mom, kids assume you are going to feed them on a daily basis. Sometimes even a few times a day. That takes a lot of planning, a lot of grocery list making, a lot of hauling bags from the store to the kitchen cabinets, a lot of forethought to thaw and brown and mince things. It’s a lot of work and it’s required just about every single day.

One of the perks of moving to New York was being close enough to my mother-in-law (an amazing cook) to never worry about making another holiday meal. She loves the planning and cooking and baking and is really good at it. I’m happy to offer extra hugs and do my part to deposit a van full of grandkids on her doorstep every time a holiday rolls around. But this year we were on our own.

Because of work obligations we couldn’t get to New Hampshire to sit at her table. And because of their local obligations, they couldn’t come join us. So it looked like that big turkey spread, always packed full of everyone’s personal favorites, was going to fall on my shoulders. Then the phone call came, with a unique proposal.

Instead of a gift card or a wrapped box for my birthday this year, my mother-in-law offered to buy us a premade meal, from the grocery store down the street. Now some women would be offended by such an offer. It would cramp their Martha Stewart style and insult their abilities. I was more than thrilled to accept it, and bowed down in gratitude to this woman who knew me so well she knew I’d love it.

So on the weekend before Thanksgiving I was not hunched over a store freezer, trying to figure out which sized bird I should buy. And for the days before the holiday I didn’t have to re-arrange my fridge to accommodate a thawing turkey. And the morning of the big day I wasn’t tearing the plastic off the beast and wondering if it were indeed thawed enough to be able to cook in time for the perfectly timed meal.

It happened to be our wedding anniversary on Thanksgiving day this year, so my hubby and I slept in a bit, then made it a date, to head down the street to pick up our box full of food. We wandered the aisles and got a few extras - drinks for the kids, pretty paper plates for the rest of the weekend, some fresh whipped cream for the pumpkin pie that was included in our meal. There was no rush. The work was already done. All we had to do was take our magic box home and heat up the food. By transferring it into my own serving dishes, our feast looked exactly like the ones from years past, the ones that had been a whole lot more work.

We hung out on the couch with our kids, watching the parade, then football. We stuck candy onto graham crackers and made gingerbread houses. And when it was time to eat, the mood in the house was relaxed and peaceful, just as it should be on a holiday that’s all about giving thanks. The food was tasty. The variety was perfect. All in all, I think it might have been one of the best birthday presents I’ve ever received, the gift of enjoying my kids instead of being isolated from them in the kitchen all morning.

We were amazed at the price of our box of food. I know that if I went to the grocery store to buy ingredients for a big holiday meal, the total would be over a hundred bucks. Our magic box of food was half that price. Considering the price of ingredients, the value of my time not spent in the kitchen, and the lack of hassle all week, I think this may be a tradition we follow in years to come.

Any time trusty Grammy is not available to pull it all together, I’m more than thankful to let the wizards at our local grocery store do the honors for me.

1 comment:

Sandra Foyt said...

That's brilliant! Since I'm not an eager cook, and neither is my mother-in-law, we ended up at the King China Buffet this Thanksgiving. Next year, I'll look for the "Love in a Box."