I hear from my kitchen the sound of glass scraping against metal and ringing as it falls into a trash bag. Occasionally I hear my husband sigh. He is cleaning up a mess I made in our oven two days ago.
It was typical meal but with a surprising end. I had cooked dinner for family and friends and put the dessert in the oven while we chatted after the meal. Mind you, it wasn’t an exceptional dessert with temperamental ingredients. Rather, my goal was a fairly easy Lebanese dessert with filo pastry and mozzarella cheese. Halfway through the baking process we heard a loud “BANG” from the kitchen. A friend was the only one in the room and she happened to be next to the oven. I looked around the corner to her from the dining room to find a confused look on her face. I asked, “Did the oven door fall open?”.
“No. It was inside the oven.” Not good.
I made my way into the kitchen and opened the oven door to find dessert and glass oozing through the grate. Our trusty glass casserole dish had exploded. Thousands of chunks of glass were now held together by cheese and pastry. Bits were making their way down to join the shards and cheese already around and on the heating element.
It took a minute for me to process what I was seeing. I have never had a cooking vessel fail so spectacularly. Then I thought, “There’s not a thing I can do about this.”
While the oven cooled everyone else started a card game. I chose to sit with a whiskey and mourn the lost dessert, lost casserole dish, and lost sense of trust we place in our crockery. Somehow the fact that it was entirely accidental made it worse. I would have handled it better if it had been human error on my part.
We left the door closed for the night and all day yesterday. The failed dish and dessert sat in the oven while we spent the day at the Renaissance Fair. We listened to bagpipes, rode rides, and ate about every food possible on a stick, the melted cheese and crumbled pastry waited.
A full day of feats of strength, fairy wings, and jousting lifted the frustration and sadness from my mind. Finally in bed for the night I made a comment that my first chore this morning would have to be cleaning the oven. My husband looked at me and said, “No. I’m cleaning the oven. That’s what I am doing first thing tomorrow morning.”
And first thing this morning he got to work. Perched on a stool and head in oven he is pulling the glass and goo away from the heating element, scraping away the evidence of a sad moment for me. I can’t tell you why he’s doing this other than he loves me.
Marriage is hard work and there are hundreds of self-help books to explain that to you. Many of them emphasize the ways we hurt one another, fail to communicate that hurt, and fail to ask for forgiveness when we’ve caused pain. Those are the things that will break a marriage but they are not the things that will sustain it. Cleaning up the broken glass for your spouse will.
My husband didn’t break the casserole dish. He was not responsible for its spontaneous explosion in the oven. But he cleaned it up as a gift to me. He didn’t want to have to watch me do it. He cleared the oven of every bit of goo and glass then pressed the “self-cleaning” setting to remove years’ worth of buildup inside.
How much are we willing to love one another? The cliché “It’s the little things” is entirely correct. Apologizing when we hurt one another is obligatory. It is necessary in a functioning relationship. But we deserve relationships that are more than “functioning”. A dysfunctional relationship still functions. We need relationships that are more than healthy, that thrive.
“Do you promise. . .”
“Will you. . .”
“With this ring. . .”
We enter into a covenant with one another the day we respond “I do”. Those words are more than a promise to apologize when we’re wrong. They are a commitment to sit with one another, be attentive and present for one another, to clean up broken glass.
“I do. . .promise to jump out of bed when I hear the dog getting sick at 2 a.m. because you’ve had a long day.”
“I do. . .promise to clean out the refrigerator even though you will never notice.”
“I do. . .promise to smile and mention it when I see you growing and changing and becoming more the person you are called to be.”
“As I have loved you, so you should love one another.”
We bend down to clean the messes of others. We kneel to wash feet that have walked thousands of miles we will never see. We love; and loving means more than apologies or responding according to what we think the person deserves. We act because we love without expecting anything in return. We love without condition because there are no limits to the amount of love we have to offer.
My husband and I are not in the same room. I am writing in our living room while he works in the kitchen. No words exchanged, no conversation. But from here I feel how deeply he loves me.
The offending dish.
Some Fair Fun:
Three siblings, three straws, one float.
A turkey leg, of course!
The man I am blessed to call my "spouse" and "partner".
He also happens to look devastating in a kilt.