Remembering family routines

From the beginning, one of my favorite parts of writing this blog has been the way it’s led to conversations with parents, older than me, who’ve already been through the stage of life I describe here. Often they’ll read something on Growing Sideways that reminds them of an experience they had raising their own children, or they’ll see a theme in a post and they’ll tell me how they observed it in their own families. It’s in that spirit that I share the following poem by a Jody Bolz, a family friend and executive editor of the magazine Poet Lore. Jody sent this to me last week after reading my previous post, “Family at rest.” It’s her recollection of nights at home cooking dinner as her two children grew up.


Most days I cooked without gratitude
standing at the kitchen counter
rinsing and chopping and glancing
at the clock at five-fifty six-fifteen
the violets on our windowsill

backlit by sunset or outlined
in winter dark as I placed pots
to simmer over wide blue flames
stirring tasting seasoning our food
there was never any question

of whether or when or what
we might eat we had everything
we needed and the fact seemed
commonplace our comfort
commonplace each evening

a steep course to master task by task
scouring the cutting board sponging
the stove-top talking to the children
as they leaned over their worksheets
looking up from time to time to spar

with one another or leaping to the door
to let the cats back in while I watched
the hour pass beyond a wall of windows
seasons in free-fall like the pages
of a flip-book green and gold and gone

and sometimes it snowed and the kids
would drop their pencils racing outside
to see but I didn’t join them
I was barreling downhill
in the midst of all that beauty

veering through each gate
to be done and done and done
another weekday evening
vanishing beneath me
and now the level ground flung wide

originally published in North American Review

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