Family

Unprecedented Joy

Unprecedented. Hard. Disappointment. Tired. Lament. All words that I have heard repeatedly associated with the year 2020.

Just in our family, the COVID-19 pandemic has marred weddings, vacations, baby showers, and more; and I know that other families have experienced even more difficult circumstances. So while October is my birthday month, I kept my expectations low: a dinner out alone with my husband (seated outside and wearing masks of course), carefully timed to work around the demanding newborn nursing schedule. That would be enough. It’s not that I wasn’t excited for my birthday, I didn’t want to be let down by 2020 one more time. My birthday would look different this year since I wouldn’t be able to celebrate with all the people I love.

In many ways it feels like we’re farther away from our loved ones during this season. I’ve missed two out of my three cousins’ weddings. We have family and friends who still haven’t met or held our newborn son. We haven’t worshipped with our church family since February. My daughter gawked at everyone on the playground the first time we visited after it reopened—almost like she had forgotten other toddlers exist! Even she has noticed the limited interactions we’ve been able to have with other people.

But in other ways, I’ve found unexpected joy in the interactions we have been able to have with friends and family. While the quantity has definitely been reduced, the few moments we have with people seem to be even more precious.

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Family

Thanking God for Hamburger Helper

My mom is not a “good” cook in the traditional sense of the way. She doesn’t have a famous pie or cornbread or salad recipe that is always raved about at Southern Baptist church potlucks. I don’t have an old tin recipe box filled with family heirloom recipes. Most of her meals are inspired by Pinterest, not Julia Child.

While I don’t remember homemade biscuits or gourmet meals, I do remember eating together as a family every night. My mom and dad both were teachers at my school and supplemented their teacher salaries with after school activities. My dad would coach teams year-round while my mom tutored for hours after the final bell rung. No matter how late they worked, we would always travel home together and eat dinner at our kitchen table. Some nights we ate spaghetti, other nights we had chicken with boxed mashed potatoes. Most nights, we ate a form of Hamburger Helper and canned green beans. We all pitched in to get dinner on the table at a reasonable hour; my mom and dad both cooked while my younger sisters put out the condiments and I set the table.

Our family dinners weren’t elaborate. There was no homemade bread or “secret ingredient” chicken dish. My mom would pull out cans and boxes instead of seasonings and sauces. Yet even into my teenage years, I loved those dinners no matter how basic they were. I knew that at the end of every day, my family would share a meal together—share our daily life together.

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Family

When Social Media is your Love Language

I remember my first Valentine’s Day with my husband almost ten years ago. As a freshman in college and a hopeless romantic, I had high expectations. There must be flowers (even though I don’t really care for them), my favorite chocolates, and a thoughtful gift. The evening must be special—the perfect amount of sweet and fun to update my status on Facebook. We ended the night with my favorite cupcakes (because that was cool in 2011) at our favorite spot in the city. I thought to myself, “I hope every Valentine’s Day is this perfect.” As he drove me back to my dorm, I promptly posted our photo with the caption: “watched the sun set over Birmingham tonight with Joseph Broderick 😊.”

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