Monday, October 18, 2021

Put On The Rice

 I come home with my three kids. Two of them drop their backpacks in the entry way, and the third runs off to be reunited with his toys. I unpack my work bag and head to the kitchen.

As I add water to the pot and the rice to the water, I feel myself transported back to my own childhood, when my mom did the same thing.  

Growing up, we had rice every day.  We mastered the art of rinsing the grains before we added them to the rice cooker my parents received for their wedding.  Putting on the rice was an integral part of our day.

In my own home, we mix up our starches more - sometimes it's pasta, at other times a tortilla, but there is something so comforting about putting on the rice.

The last few weeks have been complicated, to say the least, and the upcoming months promise their own share of challenges.  As I started the rice that early evening, I stepped out of myself for a moment. I saw my hands going through the motions.  I walked out of the kitchen thinking, "Well, I put on the rice."

It feels like a story.

When she came home, she immediately put on the rice.

It feels like a memory.

When my mom came home, she put on the rice.

We don't make the rice, we put it on.  And once the rice is on, the best, most routine part of our weekdays begins. The quiet bustle of putting away the day, setting up for the new one. In the fall, there are cleats, shin guards, and soccer balls involved. There are snacks to pack, water bottles to fill.  My daughter sits at the counter to do her homework. My toddler snacks on fruit and chatters in the language only we understand.

In the midst of having to be very aware of my own mental health, the comfort of putting on the rice is valuable. The routine connects me to my mom and hers before her, for rice has always been a part of our family meals.  I'm not alone, struggling to maintain balance, keep a schedule, be a mom, be a teacher, be a wife, when I make the rice. I'm part of something bigger than myself, and I need that.

Putting on the rice isn't only about feeding my family, it's also about transitioning from the outside world to the insular one of our home and family.  When the water hits the pot, we separate from work and school; we become each other's once again.

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