I split my time between grocery stores in town. They all have a different feel and purpose--frugality versus bougie tendencies---getting by or an absolute act of privilege---donuts or no donuts (let's be real, this is the real criteria). Not too long ago, I found myself in the WINCO checkout line behind a couple who had what looked like two tons of food piling heaven-ward from their cart. It was an amazing display of riches with a fresh pineapple at the very top of the heap. There wasn't a single pre-packaged item in the mix. Everything was perishable. They were still elbows deep in bagging as I finished up my transaction and joined them in the bagging stage. I quickly organized the cheerios and other sundries into cloth bags and realized I was being watched. Pausing my flurry, I locked eyes. "You brought your own bags," the woman proclaimed with such reverence, you would have thought the holy grail had finally been found. At WINCO, no less! She elbowed her partner, "We got to get bags! That's how you do this!" They looked at each other and looked back at me, both smiling the most gorgeous toothless grins. They went on to explain that this was the first big grocery trip they had taken in over twenty years because---and this is when the light of their smiles beamed so hard and bright---they have a refrigerator now. A refrigerator in their very own apartment in their very own names. They had been bouncing between cars, the streets, and shelters for two decades and tonight, godammit, they were going to eat pineapple---cold pineapple. I lifted my hands and received a high five from both of them. I wanted to give them my extra bags, but held back. They know what to do now.
In our house, pineapple is something of a sacred fruit. When Justin first came to live with us, we had to reimagine how we did a lot of life, communication being the biggie; eating holding a close second. We had a different rhythm and interest level in conversation as well as food choices. The four of us found ourselves floundering at the dinner table night after night, bickering about the dish, talking over one another, or worse, avoiding eye contact and becoming aggressively silent. Peyton was eight at the time and accustomed to being the center of attention, so this newfound struggle was confounding. One night, she had reached her limit, put down her fork, and yelled, "I'M TRYING TO TALK. STOP TALKING OVER ME!" And that's when pineapple was born. Whenever one of us interrupts, the speaker simply says, "pineapple" and all cross-talking must cease. No questions; no arguments. Space is created and words get their platform. Sometimes it takes a plaintive PINEAPPLE wail to get through the talk-talk, but eventually it gets through, allowing us to get back on track until the next crosstalk moment in which PINEAPPLE is inserted again. As an added bonus, Justin has become a fresh pineapple enthusiast over the years---it is a staple Justin food.
Sometimes, rather, oftentimes, creating space is the only way to flourish. We need to hear ourselves think. We need a safe place to project our voice as well as hold sacred our silence. We need a chance to trust ourselves and our decisions. We need our own refrigerator to keep our pineapple cold. And with that, we fast forward to last weekend, in which Justin moved into his very own apartment in his very own name. Because sometimes, rather, oftentimes, the most important gift one can give as a parent, is to get out of the damn way.
And so, Justin, "PINEAPPLE." You know what to do, my love.