Last Christmas our son was a fresh three months old, fitting neatly into six month onesies and footie pajamas with smiling husky puppies on the feet. The weather was unnaturally warm for December but we lived in the caution of RSV and ordinary colds—things that can land our little one in the hospital—so I don’t remember much of the outdoors. I think the leaves fell, wet with the December rains, and I think the sky wavered between a watery blue and muddy grey.
My son eats through a g-tube, nestled above his belly button. He thinks it’s funny to try and pull it out in the bathtub or when he thinks we aren’t looking. For him, it is hardly noticeable to eat this way rather than that. That Christmas, he slept through most of his feeds, his head turned to his favorite side, the click and whir of the machine pushing the breastmilk into him.
Though I often didn’t know feed myself, somehow my body had learned to pour out food for him. In the still hours of the night I would sit on our couch, the dark enveloped around me, and pump. It was strangely mechanical, the buzz of the pressure, the push and pull of the hospital grade pump. My mother told me to eat while I pumped—“always feed the mother!”—but I forgot most nights. I forgot that food was something to savor, something to slow down for. I forgot, most of all, that food was a place where Jesus was interested in being with us.
My father-in-law brought me four boxes of Peppermint Jo-Jo’s from Trader Joe’s at Christmas. They tasted good: the sharp cold of the mint against my teeth, the chocolate, the filling that is still a mystery emerging from sugar and other things I’m sure I don’t know. My husband cooked us beautiful food and somehow at 3am, I ate my way through these boxes of cookies, pumping.
It was three nights before Christmas that I realized I was not alone on the couch. I was hunched over the pump, listening to a book on tape, the red and pink striped box next to me. Jesus sat down on the other side of the box. He took a cookie from the box, and I took one, and we sat in silence together.
“I do not understand you,” I finally thought. “I do not understand what I am doing here, pumping in the dark, my son already a veteran of anesthesia and surgery.” Jesus didn’t reply. The box of cookies between us, we just were together in the quiet maddening truth that there are some things we are allowed to not understand.
But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight (Luke 24.29-31).
One year later I remember that night on the couch, the silence and the box of cookies, the breast pump, my son and his g-tube nestled in his skin. One year later I remember how Jesus made himself known to me, when the day was over and the other day just beginning. Jesus made himself known to me, and opened my eyes to recognize him.
To recognize that even a box of cookies can feed a weary heart.