“Be sure to nourish yourself,” she said. These were her parting words to me and she delivered them gently but sternly, a balance that seasoned mothers have perfected. I smiled and nodded my head. “Yes. I will.”
I called her Venti Americano lady. That summer, I nicknamed every regular customer at the Starbucks where I worked after their drink. (This was long before baristas started butchering the spellings of people’s names on cups.) I had all sorts of conversations with these nameless people as we waited for the espresso to brew. And she was a talker. She talked generously about her life, her day, whatever was on her mind. Back then I’m sure I knew exactly how many kids she had, their names and ages and the details of how they spent their summer. I’m sure I shared that I had just completed my freshman year of college. That I was studying psychology but wasn’t sure why or what to do with that.
But I know that I never revealed that I struggled with nourishment. That I hadn’t really nourished myself in years, perhaps ever. That perhaps I hadn’t been truly nourished since my own mother saw to it that I was. In theory, nourishment sounded wonderful. Food. Love. Friends. Faith. These things, I believed, could nourish a person. Sustain and fulfill. But I was 19. A rising college sophomore. Perpetually dieting. Still wondering if what I’d had with my high school boyfriend was love. Struggling to figure out friendship and faith and other deep, soul-focused questions in the emotion and self-discovery of college.
On my last day for the summer, she told me to nourish myself. I said that I would. But, truly, I had no idea where to start.
Fifteen years later, I am a mother and nourishment is my world. I spend my days serving up meals and snacks and wondering about the nourishment in that half a waffle and handful of goldfish. I cuddle and hug and kiss and play and hope that I’m filling up their hearts. I want to sustain and fulfill them with food and love. Friends and faith. I want to pour life into them until they overflow, until they can’t take another drop so they close their eyes and dream. And then I want to watch over them, singing quietly, nourishing their dreams too.
Now, I also nourish myself. I grew my belly big and I opened my heart to a love so magnificent that I’ll never again doubt what love is and what it feels like. I wrestle with faith and friendship and matters of the soul. Now I dig deep and fill up on it all so that I can nourish them. And because, as a mother, I feel sustained and fulfilled. I’ve filled up with food and love. Friendship and faith. I understand, now, what it means to nourish. And to be nourished.
“Be sure to nourish yourself.” She said. And her words nestled into my heart, waiting for the moment when it would finally make sense. When I’d finally grasp the meaning of her words.
Yes. I will be sure to nourish myself.