Once upon a time, when I was 13ish, I lived with my family in a remote village in the highlands of Papua, Indonesia. The Dani tribeswomen wore string skirts and no tops and would sit on the ground in a field on market day to sell greens and sweet potatoes, handing a dangling breast like it was a sandwich to whatever child was sitting next to them feeling peckish. The kids held the boobs like sandwiches, too — flattened with two hands and gnawing on the ends. The tribesmen wore hollowed, dried gourds tied with strings around their waists and up their butts like g-strings to cover their bits — the bigger the gourd the better, obvs — and they stood near the women to make change for their purchases, grabbing money out of their wallets, shuffling it around, and shoving it back inside when the transaction was complete. Their gourds weren’t just their penis covers, Diary; they were also their wallets. So we learned thorough hand washing and not to ever — EVER — put money in our mouths earlier than we otherwise might have. #LifeSkill But even though the men’s gourds were a feat of magic and engineering, I was WAY more fascinated by the boobs. Never had I ever seen body parts stretch so far. And the VARIETY. My goodness. The shapes and peaks and valleys were as varied as the mountains, each pair like a fingerprint — totally unique. And uniquely lovely, especially in their practicality.
None of which is what I came here to chat about today, but I got distracted. Because boobs. What can I say? I am apparently still a child.
Once upon a time, when I was 13ish, I lived with my family in a remote village in the highlands of Papua, Indonesia.
And a British family lived nearby with their four kids. The mother’s name was Mary and the father’s name was David and I thought they were Very Fancy, because — hello — British accents. One day, Mary invited my mama and me to tea. TEA! The fanciest of the fancy! Tea in the afternoon, and not just the beverage. Tea as repast. A time to linger and chat. With crumpets Mary had made on her woodburning stove.
CRUMPETS! I didn’t even know crumpets were real. I thought they were an imaginary, literary food like Anne-with-an-e’s cordial or Little Miss Muffet’s curds and whey. (Imagine my surprise years later when I learned those weren’t imaginary, after all.)
Oh, Diary, Mary’s crumpets were DIVINE. Light and spongy. Coaster sized pillows with itty bitty pockets of air. An epiphany! Wonder made manifest in bread as wonder so often is. And it’s funny to look back on the events of a childhood through the lens of an adult. Because now I’m certain Mary didn’t know she was creating a formative memory for the awkward woman-child up the path. Now I’m certain Mary will laugh when she learns I thought her family was fancy. Now I’m certain Mary and my mama didn’t know they were making magic. Now I’m certain it was just an afternoon for them. A bit of batter and circular rings and a pot of hot water and a minute with friends in an otherwise overwhelming life filled with stressors and pressure and the uncertainty inherent in raising children and wondering if you’re doing it right.
But it was magic.
Whether they knew it or not.
It was a gift they gave a foundering young human full of her own uncertainties. A brief and very real taste of joy.
Which is where we are today, Diary. Overwhelmed. Under pressure. Smack dab in the middle of a jungle. Uncertain whether we’re doing right by our kids in an increasingly stressful environment while they’re engaged in a formative experience. While they’re building memories and their understanding of the world.
So I’m deciding now to try to shape what my kids will gain from lockdown with us. I’m deciding now to move my expectations away from Formal Education and Productivity and the Harder You Work The More Valuable You Are. I’m deciding now to move my expectations away from Task Completion and Box Checking and the Frenetic Attempt to Keep Up or at least Not Fall Further Behind. I’m deciding now that I have permission for my family’s Lock Down to look different than others’.
I’m deciding now to pivot toward Crumpets.
That’s the plan for my family right now. Just Crumpets. As in, just little things that are ethereal — here one minute and gone the next, but created with love and given in the spirit of generosity.
Just Crumpets — looking for ways to love my neighbors as myself, to feed their hearts as much as their bodies.
Just Crumpets — taking the time to add the bits and pieces together, then mix to create a sliver of comfort.
Just Crumpets — choosing what’s simple and brings us together instead of elaborate Schedules and big Plans which are just More Pressure I don’t need right now.
And — don’t tell, Diary — but I have a sneaking suspicion that the crumpets are where we’re going to find the memories in this crisis. It’s those small spaces and tiny efforts where our kids will receive the magic. Years from now, they’ll regale us with the tales of This Strange Time with “remember when…” and “oh, but my favorite part was…”, and we won’t carry the same vivid memories they do. We’re likely to miss them in the now, even as they’re happening. We won’t know which pieces are Significant. Or which bits will stick in their minds. Good or bad.
But we will know we made the crumpets on purpose. We created room for all of us to be. We just did tiny things. And that was more than enough.
P.S. I’ve been playing with sourdough starter. Which isn’t to say I’ve made sourdough bread. It’s just that I have starter from my friend, Becky, so I’ve been feeding it and hoping it will become “robust” soon so I can try to make bread. FINGERS CROSSED. But it turns out “feeding” starter also means “discarding” some of it so you make sure you’re feeding the right amount, and it ALSO turns out I DO NOT LIKE throwing away stuff I’ve worked hard to make. (There’s a life metaphor in there somewhere.) So instead of actually discarding the daily leftover starter, I found a recipe for — YOU GUESSED IT — CRUMPETS!
P.P.S. Despite waxing eloquent about crumpets and children and memories, I haven’t necessarily SHARED these with them. They seem to be fine with Captain Crunch for now. THE CRUMPETS ARE A METAPHOR.
(Ugh. Fine. I’ll share.)
P.P.P.S. If you’re interested in making sour dough starter, Becky made hers from the King Arthur Flour recipe.
And there’s no need to have fancy silicone rings that cost a whopping $6.89 from Amazon as pictured above — pro tip that greased canning jar lids work just fine. I just happened to have the rings because one of my kids is like Mary — SUPER FANCY — and he asked for them for Christmas, and I was all “$6.89 for a Christmas present? SOLD.”
If you’re interested in making Sourdough Crumpets from discard starter, I used the King Arthur Flour recipe. You can also search their site for “discard” and it’ll bring up lots of options to use up the discard starter. NO DISCARDING FOR THE WIN.
If you’re interested in making traditional English Crumpets, IDK — we should probably ask Mary. Or maybe one of our fancy British friends can post one? Is this a thing people make? Or do you just buy them at Tesco like I do when I’m visiting?
P.P.P.P.S. Did you think that table pic of my crumpets looked SO PRETTY and like I POSSIBLY HAVE ALL MY CRAP TOGETHER?? Me, too! That was a fun second and a half. Here’s another angle at that pristine table, friends.
Just keepin’ it real.