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Wednesday
Sep302009

What's the Hurry?

My uncle used to say that the best deal in town was 12 weeks of time for $19.95.

He was talking about a magazine.

I find myself swept up in a culture that will go to great lengths to save time.

One day I crossed paths with a friend in the grocery store, who looked slightly catatonic in front of the  array of instant dinner options... I wondered if it was really increasing the quality of her life or mine to be offered so many choices that take large amounts of resources in order to save... ten minutes.

I know, I know, the fact that I can hand my child a bowl of macaroni and cheese in three minutes is tempting enough that I always have some on hand. But when I began mothering some decades ago those products did not yet inhabit my cupboards and I spent more time than I do now stirring non instant pasta and making cream sauce the way my Grandma Rose did. With butter and milk.

What have I gained? What have I lost?

Recently I asked a bunch of young children for their versions of how their mothers make dinner, in order to make a cute cook book for Christmas presents.

“She takes it out of the box, and puts it in the microwave, and then it is done.”

“I think soup comes in a can.”

“She answers the door and there is the pizza. I think she gives him money.”

I shelved that idea behind the instant macaroni.

I used to make my own tomato sauce. Mind you this was back when the children did not yet outnumber the adults in the house, but I got the tomatoes right from the farmer's market, so ripe you had to hold them gently, spent the afternoon chopping onions and spices, and stirred it on the stove for hours. I did not hurry or feel inadequate because the process took all day. It was nourishing. It was mine.

But the world gradually convinced me that taking time for things you can get instantly is preposterous.

Now I wonder why I believed it.

Marriage has taken a hit these days. I wonder if the hurrying frenzy is tied up in it.

No one divorced in my grandmother's day, partly because of social stigma, but I also think they knew that building a marriage is slow work. If after a few years it still felt lumpy, well you kept stirring. When I hear the tragic stories of people who divorce before they have unpacked all the wedding gifts, I wonder, What is the rush? Did you think that spending more money on the ceremony would insure that you would see results faster?

I am married to an old man. Well, I used to think 54 was old. Now I know it is just right. Seventy, now that will be old.

But I listen to wives with 32 year old husbands who are frustrated that he is not more mature. Mature is a euphemism for old.

If you want a well worn husband, whose fur has been loved off like the Velveteen Rabbit, you have to be willing to be old too.

My son recently bought pants that look old right off the rack. He said it was stylish. They even cost more than the cleaner variety. But I want pants that reflect adventures the garment and I have had together.

I cherish a spouse whose hair turned gray while I was watching, over years of staying up with babies and then teenagers driving across the country in cars that need repairs they can't afford. I want my marriage to simmer over a low flame of love, not get zapped in ninety seconds on high.

A few children shared their idea of what long love looks like.

“When my grandmother got arthritis she couldn't bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So my grandfather does it for her all the time even when his hands got arthritis too. That's love.” – Rebecca, age 8

“Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him to make sure the taste is ok.” – Danny, age 7

My marriage with John has been cooking for awhile now. But I am not in a hurry. I do not feel inadequate if it takes a lifetime.

He nourishes me. He is mine.