I love my pantry. Discovering it on our second tour in this house was a glorious moment that gently dropped the cherry on top of what already promised to be a delicious, inviting place to call home. On the surface, it looks like a tall, thin version of other kitchen cabinets: a pair of wooden doors measuring approximately 32×60 . Open those doors and you enter a wonderland of storage space: two doors with eight shelves each, just waiting for herbs and spices to move in; two sets of 8 more shelves are straight ahead and waiting for cans, sugar, oil and popcorn; pull gently on those shelves and they swing out to reveal 6 more pairs of shelves, ready and waiting for chocolate and craisins, rice and beans, teas and water bottles. All of it adjustable! I won’t pretend that moving in was heavenly, but I made my way through the decisions and before long had the ingredients arranged and in place for easy navigating as I cook and bake my way through the seasons. The doors took the longest, but after several failed attempts, all of the herbs and spices were arranged in alphabetical order, the left side housing allspice to nutmeg, the right being home for everything from onion powder to vanilla beans and some miscellaneous items at the bottom.
Then Christmas happened, and a child arrived in the form of an almost 2 year old grandson. I was first aware that the pantry had Garth’s attention when he wanted the doors closed while I was cooking, and actively taking things out and putting them back. The next day, he gave in to the open doors and planted himself in front of them, stacking the spice tins and jars like any other set of blocks. It was only a matter of time until Mommy was moved out of the way and he anointed his new Pantry Buddy, Uncle Thomas, to help him stack, rearrange and explore the depths and wonders of the pantry. So far, only one small expendable item has been sacrificed for the good of the cause; and I’m protecting a couple of containers on the counter. It seems premature to investigate the new lodgings of marjoram and mace, but I do know that the water bottles are in the living room, and I have no idea where I might find the candy cane.
Uncle Thomas has now headed out, and in a matter of days, Garth and his parents will fly east. I expect it won’t take me too long to restore the pantry to some semblance of its former self. Yet as I ponder all of that, I’m also aware of the ways in which Christmas changes things, and that I don’t want to erase all evidence of the pantry adventures of December 2013. This child has gifted our house with a contagious curiosity, effervescent giggle, unstoppable energy, and unrelenting commitment to call his grandfather “buba”. Each of us, in turn, has had him take our hand and lead us off on some bold new exploration, or maybe to simply remind us of the bathtub he enjoys so much and would be happy to climb into. In the creative chaos of his presence, we’ve laughed and marveled our way into the very heart of what Christmas is all about.
Garth will go home and the pantry will soon look much like it did before he arrived. In a matter of days, the tree will come down, the candles be put away, gifts moved to new homes, and eating and exercise routines reestablished. But Christmas changes things, and I don’t want to put away the sense of delight and affection that currently fill this house. The gift of wonder and unfiltered enthusiasm that have been part of this visitation. The promise of possibility and the presence of pure love that accompany the Holy One, who comes in many forms and sometimes plays in the pantry.