Monday, October 3, 2011

How do you Like your Apples?

This weekend the temperatures took a dive into the 40's and daytime temperatures were between 65 and 70 with a cool breeze. Some readers will understand what I mean when I use the expression "knocking the chill off the house."  I'm not quite sure if that is a southern expression, I'm just certain it was something handed down from my mother and my childhood. I happen to believe every child should have the experience, at least once, of dressing in front of the kitchen stove with the oven door open wide, while waiting for the early morning chill to be chased away as the sun begins to ooze its way through the blinds and curtains leaving warm places for bare feet to walk.

It seems our minds often switch gears with the change of seasons as our tummies seem to send invisible signals to our brains indicating its time for something warm and toasty on our breakfast  platter. When fall arrives, the serious cereal and milk connoseiur may begin to crave a hearty bowl of oatmeal and the PopTart crowd may find the once appealing taste of fruit and pastry inside a silver wrapper gives way to much deeper cravings.

Most of us can think of at least one comfort food or one experience that reminds us of home and the warmth and comfort of our past. I've had many friends share their love for "homemade stickies,"  which is something I never experienced as a child. It just wasn't a part of my own personal experience. Still others enjoyed a stack of pancakes or homemade biscuits with molasses or honey. Our experiences with food are much like our expressions, rising out of the community where we were raised or passed down as a family tradition.  Traditions can be really beneficial, creating unity in families, However, building memorials to "how we did it" can also divide when we are asked to open wide the doors to those who are different from us in relationship.

Kindergarten was sometimes referred to as a "garden of children," growing in community together. They brought as many different outlooks on life as there were students in the classroom each year. In the beginning of the year, we often graphed our likes and dislikes, giving each child a chance to reveal more about who they were and what their experiences in life had been. Some liked red apples and others preferred green or yellow. Some loved applesauce but disliked apple juice.

 When we made Little Bear's Cinnamon Toast, I explained to the children I preferred my mom's "Sugar Toast" to anything made with cinnamon.

Even within families, favorites can vary from one individual to another. My mother loved apple butter which I found distasteful. Apple Dumplins has always been my daughter's favorite dessert, a choice I could never disagree with, especially if topped with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream. As I think of the traditions even within my own family, I realize most of the time "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree." However, it's in the acceptance of our differences, the warmth of relationship can grow.

When kindergarteners made homemade applesauce, they were given the right tools for preparing the apples. Plastic cutlery was in order for the inexperienced hands cutting the apples into small pieces. Working together was a necessity if we wanted to smell the scent of fresh cooked apples and taste the goodness of the finished product. It takes a long time to cut a bag of apples into small pieces!

Whether a student liked a whole apple, candy apple, apple juice or apple pie better than applesauce really didn't make much difference when I lifted the lid off the pot filled with the yummy goodness of homemade cooked apples. Noone seemed to remember the color of the peel or beg for what they'd always had at home. There was a commonality that came as they congratulated each  other on their ability to make something so beautifully warm and inviting. A feeling of "home" seemed to permeate the classroom and the chill of our differences became imperceptible for a time

There's something really special in finding someone who shares your interests and understands your point of view. Sharing our similarities can feel like the comfort of  a warm and cozy memory of home. You want to pull up a chair and sit in front of the open oven door and stay awhile. It's not quite so simple when we are trying to have relationship with those with whom we seem to have nothing in common.

 However, our individual experiences can become amazing conversation pieces. If we are aware of how our diversity can become something to "knock the chill off " a blooming relationship, we can cross over the lines that separate us from others.

I'll never forget a student who shouted out the name of his favorite bread one day in class. "Giggy bread! Giggy bread!" he shouted. Pretty quickly, it was apparent that noone had any frame of reference. As I questioned him about his choice, we all learned something very special about this particular student. His affectionate name for his grandmother was Giggy. It seems his grandmother had a recipe for homemade bread which he and his sister dearly loved, thereby earning the title of Giggy Bread.

 Not one of us had tasted this amazing recipe,, but we were drawn into his story and for a time, we found ourselves sitting at his table, enjoying a slice of Giggy bread.

How do you like your apples?

Apple pie, apple butter,  or candy apple...

What's your story?

Cinnamon toast, sugar toast, or Giggy Bread...

Sharing stories of who we are and how we came to be the person we are, can "knock the chill off"  when we face diversity of opinion and difficulties in relationships. Somehow its in the sharing that something quite miraculous takes place. I never tasted Giggy Bread, but something about this student's story made me want something delicious and memory provoking to be named after me.

How do you like your apples? your bread? your breakfast?
What's your story? What do you feel is life giving in your story or provokes others to a feeling of being "at home" with you?

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