Last weekend I was excited to write about my family’s adventure going vegetarian for two weeks. I get bored easily and like to try new things and thought vegetarianism would be a great introduction to my children eating different foods and a change of pace for us. The first week was great and we really liked the variety and trying new recipes. The first weekend, we went to a Halloween Party and the kids drooled over the chicken wings and meatballs they normally would devour. But they were fantastic, didn’t complain and stuck with the non meat menu.
Then came Sunday, one week in. A freak, fall New England snow storm dumped half a foot of heavy, wet snow over our foliage laden trees causing many of them to break and fall and take out many power lines and block roads. We lost our power after happily filling our bellies with hot, whole wheat apple pancakes. I thought for sure it would be an hour, maybe two that we’d get our power back. News reports claimed otherwise. It could be up to a week or more before our power would be restored and it was going to be record lows at night. Did I jinx us with my boredom and wanting a change of pace?
Suddenly vegetarianism didn’t seem so promising with pounds of chicken and ground turkey defrosting in my freezer. Our wonderful friends in town offered to let us stay at their home since they had power and heat and I made a big vegetarian chili to start us off. Our children were happy to spend time with their friends and have sleepovers and no school. We were happy to have a warm place to stay with those we felt close to and worked well with as families.
When Halloween was cancelled due to the outage and dangerous road conditions, the kids were disappointed for about 30 seconds and were over it knowing that the night would be rescheduled. Rescheduled Halloween, unbelievable. Childhood memories altered by natural disaster, yet filled with the warmth of friends and generosity.
A few days in, a super generous friend offered to let us use her generator. I couldn’t wait to get back to my house. During the day when I’d go back to pick up clothes and necessities, it felt so strange to walk through our abandoned house, so cold and unlived in. I never realized how much a family makes a home until then. It is not our dwelling which keeps us together as a family, it is our presence. Together we make a home, wherever we are. Yet we had invested so much in that space, we were drawn there and wanted to be back in it.
When we returned to our house and camped out in the living room by the fire and electric heater, I felt secure to be in one place with my children sleeping on the floor, one television we had to share and agree on and playing Go Fish with my son. Without other distractions, I really listened to my son’s jokes. He is so funny. And was pleased to hear my daughter say she was glad to be home. I was just glad to be together.
Two nights of camping in the living room and waking to a cold house and strategic planning to get through the morning, lead to two more nights of sleepovers at my parents when their power returned. The second night was a rescheduled trick or treating at my aunt and uncle’s house with our cousins. It was great to finally enjoy our tradition, getting dressed up and waiting till just the right time to go out only to discover that no one in the neighborhood knew it was the night we’d be showing up! Those who came to their doors were amazingly gracious and the kids were unfazed by the fact that they were the lone trick or treaters. Tradition continues and we will have years to laugh at the night when we made our own Halloween!
My kids never asked to eat meat like their friends during the week we lived one moment to the next. They seemed to take pride in being vegetarians for the short while. It was me who broke down first and felt I could not go one more day without buffalo chicken wings, my staple comfort food. The spicy chicken wing has power over me like no other. However, when I suggested that we give it another shot another time, they looked at me like I had officially lost it. I just may have.
I started this week thinking about how much I appreciated food and options and having the freedom to eat what I want. I ended the week appreciating the kindness and selflessness of friends, family and neighbors, of electricity, of heat and hot water, of cell phones and staying connected with friends, of wine and laughter, and of those wonderful and flexible people who allowed my children to have a Halloween.
As frustrating as many of the moments were, I worked hard to relish in my thankfulness and gratitude for what I did have and not focus on what I didn’t. We are a lucky family. My children are so fortunate to have food on their plates, meat or no meat, friends by their sides and people who love them and make sure they are taken care of. This is what I learned on our vegetarian stint and I hope they remember it the same way. And when I get bored again and propose my next lifestyle change, I hope they remind me that filling the space doesn’t always get me what I’m looking for. Sometimes it gives me a whole lot more.