Updated: Sep 29, 2018
Yesterday evening, our son Haru left for his annual school-run outdoor education trip. He and his friends were, for the first time, responsible for compiling their meals for the week (in previous years, the school had provided the food). Being teenage boys, none of them wanted to cook, so the ice chest departed for the wilderness filled with Cheerios and boxed macaroni and cheese. It made me a little sad, and although the motherly part of me wanted to prepare meals for them, this was my son’s trip and his time to grow alone, so perhaps it was okay that I let them do as they wished.
And yet, at the bottom of Haru’s personal backpack, I noticed some of the beef jerky he had made himself only a week ago; upon seeing him put it in his bag, I couldn’t help but smile. This act was his small rebellion against the processed consumer products his friends adamantly advocated for, just a little hint of home to bring with him.
Today I received a call from my daughter in New York who, after going apple picking in the orchards upstate (a first-time experience for a California-raised girl), desperately wanted to turn her enormous stash of apples into some kind of dessert. All she had was a pot, a spoon, and a lounge kitchen shared by a hundred other students, but she still determinedly headed to the nearby market and purchased her first ever frozen puff pastry sheet (all she had ever had was my homemade pie crusts). I knew that what she could make with only granulated sugar and a puff pastry was limited, and my inability to be there and help out was frustrating, but watching her reach out for some taste of home flooded my heart with joy.
Over the next hour, I received about twenty phone calls as she went through the process of creating her dessert, often panicked that the apples were turning brown or that there wasn’t enough sugar or that the oven wasn’t working. With no butter, no cinnamon, no baking pan, and only a two inch paring knife, the situation wasn’t looking up. Yet somehow, after a few hours of struggled improvisation, Sakura sent me photos of what she had created. Looking at the finished product, I could see her as she carefully peeled and sliced the apples at the tiny kitchen counter, lining the slices up on the pastry, watching patiently by the old, badly manufactured electric oven while her dessert baked; what she had created was so simple, but in it I could see her heart and all of her treasured memories of home.
Right now, both my children, alone in their own new environments, are tasting what they have created together with their friends so have been any part of that growth, that creativity, that meal that they have made, is the greatest gift I could ask for.