The other night as I shuffled around in my freezer trying to figure out what to make for dinner, I found a frozen spanakopita that I had bought at Trader Joe’s. I had forgotten that it was in my freezer, but I remember buying it. A month or so prior, I glanced at it in the frozen food section and my heart softened as I immediately hatched a plan to make dinner for the boy I was dating. I’m Greek, so I was excited to share with him a piece of my (frozen, pre-made) culture. And I could make gyro or maybe even falafel. And perhaps baklava for dessert – I used to make it every year for Christmas, but haven’t for the last couple. I got really excited and my heart was singing at the very thought of the meal I’d make and share with him.
I’ve always enjoyed cooking for people who I care about – inviting a person over for a home-cooked meal is one of the biggest ways that I show them that they matter to me. There is something so special about sharing my love for someone in the form of a meal that I made for them myself. As a child, I always took pride in whatever thing that I contributed to family meals. For a while, during college, I made a flourless chocolate cake every week for my family, and after I perfected that recipe, I started experimenting with cupcakes.
Wait. But I totally wasn’t blogging about cooking. I swear I wasn’t.
After I discovered the spanakopita in my freezer, I continued making dinner (veggie curry with chicken potstickers). I was overwhelmed with sadness & grief that I was never able to share that meal – and that piece of my heart – with that boy. And I started thinking about all the other little reminders of past relationships that you discover after they’re gone.
On our second date, my ex, J, and I had bought a gingerbread house kit and put together our own gingerbread house. We had started dating just a couple of weeks before Christmas – in fact, for our first date, he came over and helped me decorate my Christmas tree – and we celebrated our anniversary on Christmas Eve.
We decorated three trees together over the years, but only one gingerbread house. For our second Christmas, I had bought a gingerbread house kit just like the year before. We had plans to put it together, and then he went to rehab five days before Christmas without telling me. I was devastated. I couldn’t bring myself to put together the kit that we had bought. I don’t know what happened to it. I think my mum threw it out one day, realising how sad it made me. Like the spanakopita, it was there, reminding me of some great happiness I had planned, sure that the future would work in my favour.
On our third Christmas together, J asked if we could assemble a gingerbread house like on our first Christmas. We didn’t. I couldn’t bring myself to, even though I passed the kits at Trader Joe’s frequently during that month. (Side note: I swear that I do not buy everything at Trader Joe’s. Also know that this is not an advertisement for Trader Joe’s products, or a suggestion that Trader Joe’s is the root of all sadness or the termination of happy futures in relationships.)
As I stood over the stove, frying up veggies and potstickers the other night, I thought about the gingerbread house. And the spanakopita that still sits in my freezer. And I thought about all the other little things that you find along the way that remind you of plans for futures that did not happen.
On Monday, I received a text from a guy I dated 6 years ago (my only ex who I’ve ever wanted to stay in touch with – we were friends first & foremost, and never truly in love). He was cleaning out his garage and found a CD that he had bought for me – MGMT (wow, what ever happened to them????). “I remember buying this at Best Buy – I really liked this CD!” he texted, with a photo of the CD case. It wasn’t so much a plan for a future that fell through, but it was one of those weird little mementos of a time when a relationship felt infinite and all that mattered was creating & sharing happiness with the other person. Sometimes that’s found through a CD from your college years, or a mass-produced gingerbread house that’s sold every year, or even a frozen spinach pie. The future takes form in strange little ways. And so does hope and happiness.