• Jill Reed, Ph.D.

Be the Piece of Cheese with the Hardened Corners That Keeps Showing Up in the New Normal

Creating Easter, honoring memories, and holding it together on this emotional roller coaster is hard and sometimes sad

“Last night I enjoyed a last slice of cheese that’s dry on the corners confit, with a coke zero au jus, over a bed of Triscuits, with a side salad of frozen broccoli and a dressing of a soy sauce packet from the soy-sauce-packet-and-plastic-forks-from-delivery drawer.” John Lovett, (via Lovett or Leave It, Saturday, April 11, 2020)

Yesterday on the podcast Lovett or Leave It, John Lovett described this meal to demonstrate that he is doing his part and staying in, forgoing even a grocery run, at his mayor’s suggestion. Thus, the sad leftover remnants meal.

His guest Guy Branum immediately picked up where John left off with this: “…this week, we are all that piece of cheese. …seeing America try to deal with anything less than the grossest excess of plenty has been hilarious.”


I am the piece of cheese, I will eat the piece of cheese, I will forge ahead


I am in complete agreement with Guy’s statement. He was describing exactly how we all feel at week 803 (or wherever we are in the timeline) of the pandemic quarantine. I am definitely the piece of cheese that is slightly oily, maybe moldy, definitely hardened on the edges and corners. Somehow, I will put that piece of cheese on bread or cracker or my hand and eat it anyway. 


Last night as I was digging through the storage closet looking for our Easter box I quickly realized it was on the bottom of the last shelf in the corner behind another full shelf and still wrapped in packing tape from having been shipped in a 40-foot container 10 months ago. Big sigh, some curse words.


I reached in and grabbed what I could. Two little brown bunnies to signify that indeed the Easter bunny found our rental home in Costa Rica, a plastic bag full of plastic eggs into which I can put all the leftover Skittles from Halloween, and two small gingham lined baskets already full of paper grass. Big score on that last one.

Photo by Waranya Mooldee on Unsplash

I did not pull out the other assorted bunnies, nor did I touch the beautifully painted eggs of my mother’s that I insisted on bringing down, along with her Easter egg tree that was tragically maimed and ruined in the course of the move. Nowhere to hang the eggs, no need in pulling them out of the taped-up box, and scraping the bejesus out of my arm again.


Sadness sets in when I realize we don’t have the grossest excess of plenty


But that makes me really sad.


And then my wife shows me the sad bounty of local candy and ramen noodles that we have to go in the boys’ baskets. I have never been more glad I saved leftover candy. Thankfully, I have a stash of typical American chocolates and such that a friend brought down to us in March right before the borders closed. I try to fill the gaps, but I know it’s a pretty shitty basket this year.


I find myself wishing I had a Target or Amazon prime next day delivery. I could have made their baskets really special. 


With what? More stuff?


Gift cards to buy inanimate things on their ipads? Plastic toys that they’ll dismiss after the novelty wears off? Legos they’ll put together in a day and then place them strategically in their closet so I step on them when hanging up their clothes? Books they 

may or may not have an interest in reading? More art supplies for a bulging crafts’ closet/dresser/cabinet/drawer?


They don’t NEED anything. They have cozy beds, a home, food on their plates at every meal and snacks galore, clothing that mostly fits (clothing shopping for kids in Costa Rica is an entire separate piece), a beautiful back garden, a pool, games, puzzles, books, ipads and toys.


These kids want for nothing. 


Most importantly, they have a mostly functioning, often loving, sometimes gentle and always caring family. 


Part of the reasoning behind leaving the States was to leave the rampant consumerism behind and yet, it continues to creep into our world in little ways. Despite having “shed the skin” of the rat race pace of the States, I can still easily fall back into the trappings. And as I stand there holding the baskets and looking at this pathetic bag of sad fillers I start to cry.

“…seeing America try to deal with anything less than the grossest excess of plenty has been hilarious.” Guy Branum

I’m crying because I can’t make their baskets Pinterest worthy, heaping buckets of the “grossest excess of plenty.” 


Wait, why am I crying exactly?


Remember the Easter egg tree? It was ruined in the move and at the time I was so overwhelmed with creating a home for my kids in a foreign country that I just dismissed it when it happened.


Easter was an important ritual in my family. My mother loved it almost as much as Christmas. The joy she expressed on Easter Sunday after the long dark nights of Lent was catching. She picked flowers from our garden with fervent passion to adorn the cross at church, made us pose for pictures with our overflowing baskets, sewed our matching Easter outfits every year for as long as I can remember, and sang in church loudly for all the world to hear. 

“Christ our Lord is risen today. Alleluia!”


Photo by Sharosh Rajasekher on Unsplash

And let us not forget that she almost always leaned over in church on Easter Sunday to remind me to check out all the C & E folks we hadn’t seen since in church since Christmas Eve. I definitely come by my judginess honestly.


My mother never stopped smiling on Easter. Her connection to her faith was very deep. Her love for Christ was strong and she believed in his teachings. She believed in his love for the world and all its people. 


So there it is. 


Easter is a time for celebrating, for being glad in the news that Christ has risen, that our sins are forgiven, that our God is a kind and loving God. 


Meet the challenge, create the magic and be grateful


I wipe my tears away, sniffle my snot back in and get to work. I fill the eggs with candy. I place the bunnies just so. I groan when my wife insists on hiding the baskets, as per her family’s tradition. I hypothesize that the dogs will eat the baskets. She says they won’t.

It’s a weird time to be living in and there are challenges that require skills often not found in our individual wheelhouses. So we are learning and growing and working to do our part and keep our sanity at the same time. 


I am haggard and a little beat. When my emotions bubble, I just let it happen. I cry – sometimes a little, sometimes more than a little. 


I am that piece of cheese, the last chunk of cheddar at the back of the drawer with hardened corners and a healthy covering of mold. But, I’m here. I am showing up to this new normal.

I am grateful to remember and honor my mother by creating a little Easter magic for my kids. 


I am filled with hope while watching the National Cathedral’s beautiful service including this amazing zoom event with their orchestra and choir.


I am thankful that the dogs only managed one basket, helping themselves to just a handful of M&Ms.


And lastly, I am awed by my kids who were genuinely suprised and considerably grateful for Easter baskets of any shape or size because as my youngest remarked, “I didn’t think the Easter Bunny would come to Costa Rica!” 


Happy Easter from our chaos to yours. May we all grow to embrace the cheese with the hardened edges and continue to love one another. 

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