I can’t take it any longer. The butter smears, the rings on the shelves where dripping condiments once sat, the hints of mold inside jam jars, the shrivelled broccoli florets in the drawer. It’s time to clean out the fridge.
I turn on a podcast. Brené Brown’s summer series where she and her sisters navigate The Gifts of Imperfection, a book Brown wrote ten years ago, pops up. I love a good sister chat, especially one that covers mid-life, vulnerability and thoughts on joy versus happiness. Before I know it I have a toothbrush in hand and I’m going deep into the cracks.
Hidden on the top shelf is a mason jar with a clear, slightly viscous liquid inside. Ah! The lavender syrup I made from a backyard harvest a few weeks ago. My three lavender bushes are four years old now. I’ve been trimming back the blossoms since I planted them, as instructed by the seller, to strengthen the plant. It’s hard to cut back beauty, just as it emerges. But gardening is a long game. Now they’re big and bushy, and spiky blossoms are everywhere throughout the kitchen – in vases, drying on the counter and in syrups. The syrup inspiration came from my sister Sally, who adds it to sparkling water with a squeeze of lemon, or stirs it into a cocktail, depending on her mood. Sal has always been making things from the flowers in her life, from soap, to hand creams to the delicate infusions she turns into ice cream.
I’ve been witness to all of this making since Sally and I were preschoolers sharing a room. We had twin beds, but preferred to sleep in the tall double in the guest room where every night we’d construct things from the imaginary tools we kept under our pillows. I created objects from metal and cement while Sally orchestrated art projects from flowers, paper and ribbons. We called it the making game. We were so different from the start, but that’s the beauty of growing up with siblings – their ways are folded into yours, and before you know it, you’re making lavender syrup.
As I wipe down the top shelf, Brown digs into what her research says about happiness versus joy. “Happiness is circumstantial,” she explains to her sisters. “We’re not happy all the time, and happiness in the short term is not what brings us joy. It’s gratitude that makes us joyful.” Then Brown asks her sisters what their gratitude practice is, especially over this past year. They laugh, sheepishly. I laugh, sheepishly. I’m practising so few things these days; gratitude could be a joyful place to start.
I’m happy this fridge is now clean. I’m grateful for sisters who make things with flowers.