Take out the recipe index card, the one typed up and laminated, rescued from the handwritten scrap of paper in the back of an old spiral notebook. Look over the ingredients. Preheat to 350.
Measure out the proper dose of mayonnaise. Two cans of cream of mushroom soup. Whisk four eggs. Dump in a bag of cheese. Crush the little cheese crackers. Bring five bags of broccoli to a boil, then carefully separate florets from their stalks. Pay attention. This step takes time. Allow the soft stems to participate. Keep out any tough, unpleasant bits that might poke or jab.
While doing this, listen to John Coltrane. His life’s work is the official soundtrack of gratitude and abundance.
Think of your wife sitting quietly in the other room. You have been together all of your adult life. You have seen each other at your absolute best and absolute worst. You still choose each other every day.
Think of your 10 year old daughter watching videos in the den. She has your sense of humor and is your greatest, surprising joy. So far, so good. Be careful not to screw her up.
Think of your mother and father busily preparing the main meal at their house. Wonder if they can know how important they are, even though you hardly ever call or stop by anymore.
Think of your brothers who live too far away. Wonder what their lives are like and if the sun is shining where they are today.
Think of your grandmother who is always ready for a visit and your grandfather who you never met because he died a few weeks before you were born. And the grandparents you knew but never got to spend much time with because you lived too far away from their kitchen full of quick wit and basement full of books which sometimes you got to peruse and pilfer.
Think of your mother-in-law who welcomed you into her family years before you realized you were joining. Her talent for giving the right gifts — small, clever things you never knew you might need.
Your wife’s aunt who died too hard and too young and how she made her life the art of perpetual motion and generous action. We sang Free Bird at her funeral, which was a time I felt closest kinship with God.
Think of your closest friends, these families we make for ourselves as we move through our days. How they think of you, notice your mood, ask the useful, difficult questions.
And the people with whom you work, who bring their gifts and talents to mix with yours to make good things happen.
Think of your students as they struggle and prepare to find out what they might become.
And the people in your neighborhood who wave and smile. The people in line at the gas station or grocery store who may or may not look familiar. You are in each other’s lives even though you can’t always see how or why.
Oven is ready now. Ingredients are mixed.
Place pan in oven. Set timer. Wait.
Enjoy the spreading, radiant heat of the kitchen. Notice the room you have made inside yourself to welcome this rich meal of shared abundance.