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Apron Strings | KERRI EIKER

Apron Strings

Six months ago I was dreaming of packing my suitcases to attend a month long advanced yoga teacher training program.  I envisioned my smaller suitcase filled with bikinis, sarongs, flip flops and tanning lotion.  My larger suitcase would be packed with a few of my yoga clothes, leaving the rest of the suitcase empty for trinkets I would bring home from Bali Indonesia.
Recently my dream of packing became a reality, although instead of bikinis, I packed heavy leggings and turtle necks.  Instead of sarongs I packed my down jacket.  Rather than flip flops and tanning lotion I packed my snow boots and chapstick.  Both of my suitcases were bursting at the seams with no room to bring back trinkets.
For what I thought were practical reasons my dream trip to balmy-Bali faded into the reality of a trip to the Kripalu Yoga and Health Center in mighty-cold-Massachusetts.  I’m not complaining, I feel blessed and fortunate to have the opportunity to study one of my passions at the establishment touted as the leading center for yoga teacher training here in the states, but I was hoping to find more in Bali than just teacher training and trinkets.
“Aw that’s too bad.”  My son consoled when I told him of my new travel plans.  “Oh, but that’s great!  That means I can call you if we start to starve and you can tell us how to cook stuff.”
Actually, as much as I was looking forward to a once in a lifetime adventure half way around the world on a remote mountain top with no wify or phones, I was very nervous about being completely cut off from my family at home for an entire month.
My relatively new yoga teaching path keeps me out late in the evenings, leaving the kitchen duties to my husband and kids. After a late evening yoga class last week I parked in my dark driveway. The glow from the TV in the family room flashed and expanded, lighting up the house as if there were mini explosions coming from that box on the wall.  I was disappointed, but not surprised that, except for light from the TV, the kitchen remained dark.  I was greeted at the door by my dog Olive, holding her little stainless steel bowl in her mouth.  A sign that she had not yet been fed.
“Oh Olive, didn’t you have dinner?”  I asked.  I knew the answer was ‘no’ when she dropped her bowl at my feet then pawed at the air with one paw the way she does when she’s hungry or sorry for doing something wrong.
The dog wasn’t the only one who hadn’t eaten.  The glow from the TV illuminated an empty pretzel bag on the table and three motionless forms snuggled into the couch.
My family isn’t helpless, they are all very intelligent and capable people but I suppose since I’ve always taken care of the majority of everyone’s domestic needs and enlisted myself as caretaker of all kitchen duties their skills in these areas are markedly underdeveloped. And for the past 28 years I’ve been ok with that, it’s my ‘job’, my role, my identity.
The next day I complained about how helpless everyone was but actually I felt relief and comfort as I put on my old well-worn apron. I prepared dinner complete with reheating instructions as I would be teaching late again that evening.   All that was required from these three bright beings was to heat up a prepared dinner, serve it, then put it away.
“How was dinner?” I asked as I walked through the back door. I was disappointed to see Olive at my feet with her little bowl in her mouth but I was pleased to see, even though it was way past dinnertime, my family each had a plate of steaming food in front of them.  I announced I was going to bed and trusted I had left enough sticky notes with detailed instructions that any leftovers would get properly stored and there would at least be some attempt to clean the kitchen.
The next morning the three kitchen sloths had properly packaged the food but proceeded to leave it on the counter.
“Hey! Why is the chicken still out?” I asked.
“There wasn’t any room for it in the fridge.”  My son replied and shrugged his shoulders as if a solution was beyond him.
“And where’s the soup?”  I asked hungry for a bowl of miso for breakfast.
“Um, I threw it out.”  My husband Eric said and cowered a little in his chair.
“Let me guess, there was no room in the fridge?”  I asked, crossed my arms and set my jaw.
Eric lifted one hand and mimicked the way Olive paws at the air when she’s hungry, or sorry.
The dishes were “soaking” in the sink, the floor was sticky and Olive’s water bowl was empty.
I looked around my dirty kitchen and felt sad, not because my family hadn’t taken care of the mess but because after almost three decades of being the domestic CEO responsible for the steady beat in the heart of my home, my job and my identity are transitioning.  If it were possible, a big part of me would be happy to wear that apron that ties me to the heart of my home forever.
I planned that trip for Bali believing that it was necessary to travel halfway around the world to find a new purpose, which would define “me” as time eases me out of my old role.
If I’m not stocking the panty, packing lunches, baking birthday cakes, kneading bread and serving hot chicken soup to a sick child who will I be?
Early this morning Josh helped me load my bags in the trunk of my car.  I sighed as I looked up at my dark kitchen.
“Mom, don’t worry we will be fine without you.”
“I know, that’s what’s bothering me.”
In the rear view mirror I watched my house recede into the background as I drove off for my mini adventure to Massachusetts in search of a new label to define “me”. Then I remembered my own advice to my yoga students “See if you can drop the labels of the many hats you wear.  Can you allow yourself the opportunity to drop below the land of words and concepts?  The real “you” lies beneath that endless verbal stream.”  And the real “me” didn’t get tucked away with the folded apron, nor is it half way around the world or up North.  I smiled and suddenly felt that same comfort that happens when I tie on that apron.

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