Sunday Brunch at the Old Country Buffet
by Anne Caston
Madison, Wisconsin, 1996
Here is a genial congregation,
well fed and rosy with health and appetite,
robust children in tow. They have come
and all the generations of them, to be fed,
their old ones too who are eligible now
for a small discount, having lived to a ripe age.
Over the heaped and steaming plates, one by one,
heads bow, eyes close; the blessings are said.
Here there is good will; here peace
on earth, among the leafy greens, among the fruits
of the gardens of America’s heartland. Here is abundance,
here is the promised
land of milk and honey, out of which
a flank of the fatted calf, thick still
on its socket and bone, rises like a benediction
over the loaves of bread and the little fishes, belly-up in butter.
One week ago, I was sick in bed. While my husband and children were at liturgy, I slept. When they got home, I kept right on sleeping. First there came the fever, then the chills and aches, then the stomach cramping, and always, always the sleeping. This crazy virus went on for days, ending just this morning when I no longer felt I was trapped in the body of a 90-year-old with stiff and painful joints. Coffee finally tastes good again.
It’s fascinating how sometimes the body just says “no” – “No you will not push through this. Lie still and let go.” All distractions were forcibly removed from me by a persistent throbbing headache only worsened by reading and television. All that silence felt confrontational.
I prayed for everyone I could think of, while stuck there lying down. I wrestled with worries. I reluctantly released deadlines and self-designated to-do lists, accepting slowly but surely my own powerlessness. I forced myself to conjure up gratitude, for warm blankets, a helpful spouse, ibuprofen, steamy bubble baths and the health of my family members.
My family, oh yes that is what matters most, more than stuff and success and productivity. My kids, so amazing, challenging, in need of my heart, head and soul, they require my all and then some. How do I balance motherhood and a career? I don’t. I won’t. Unless my husband and children receive my first fruits, fulfillment eludes me. This it what I remembered when I was sick, and constrained to a humbling degree of inactivity. Time spent managing and setting a tone of peace within my household is time well invested. Time spent pursuing feel good accolades and perfection, on the other hand, is time tragically squandered and wasted.
This morning, I celebrated the return of my appetite and energy by way of brunching with those I love most.
And we didn’t rush or agonize over all we should probably be doing but were not doing because what we were doing, refueling in our togetherness, was good and right. Out of sacrifice and contentment, I am convinced, flows the purest of creativity. Only when I create as a means of prayer, to praise God for all that is beautiful, light-filled and eternal, does photography, or any artistic undertaking, bring me energy instead of added stress and insecurity.
Here, all around us, is abundance. Drink it up, suck it down, soak it in.