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Making Do – A Story About Mom

I am about eight years old and in need, in my mind, of an after school snack. My favourite, which I can manage on my own, is melted cheddar cheese on white bread. I just slice cheese, put it on bread, and pop it in the toaster oven. No sweat.

I have to manage on my own. There are a total of 12 people in this huge house. Mom is busy.

I’ve been thinking of this cheese snack for a while on the bus. Eagerly, I go the fridge and look at the place where cheese is kept. There is a sliver of cheddar, about two bites of cheese. No where near enough, in my mind, to manufacture my snack. Tomorrow is grocery day so this is it. I hold in my small hand the full inventory of cheese in the house.

I … lose it. This doesn’t happen often but on this particular day, I lose it. What does this look like? I’m not sure but I think I’m pretty loud. There are tears. Clearly, I’m old enough to not hurt myself with a knife or a hot toaster oven, but not old enough to get it together in the face of nutritional disappointment.

Mom appears, bustling. I’m standing with the fridge door open, holding this pathetic excuse for cheese, wailing.

Assessing the situation, Mom takes me over to the kitchen table. No anger, some reassurance, no hugs or cuddles. This is a teaching moment.

She sits at the table with two bread slices in front of her, I kneel on a chair seat, elbows on the table, to watch. I’m completely skeptical that anything good can come of this, but I’ve stopped crying.

Wordlessly, with precision and patience, Mom slices the cheese in matchstick-like slivers, producing more slivers than I would have thought possible. Then she arranges them on the bread in such a way that most of the bread real estate is covered, or it will be when the cheese melts. Moments later, I have perfect cheese toast in front of me.

I’m stunned and a bit ashamed to have made a fuss. I’m only eight but the impact of what just happened resonates deeply.

True, sometimes there is no “cheese” at all and moving forward, finding success or contentment, is hard. Disappointment is hard.

Mom taught me to step beyond the disappointment and ask a different question: What have we got to hand and what can we do with it? So often, in my life, creating a work-around has led me to a better place than my original plan would have.

I’m so grateful she was the person she was. No nonsense, pragmatic, fun. Missing her always.

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