The power of potluck

used in reference to a situation in which one must take a chance that
whatever is available will prove to be good or acceptable:
“he could take potluck in a town not noted for its hotels”
a meal or party to which each of the guests contributes a dish:
“a potluck supper”

Today I went to Walla Walla Point Park for a reunion potluck with the Wenatchee Midwife Service. Having grown up in the evangelical church, I’ve been to many a potluck! My last name is Ross, so I fall into the M-Z category. It was the standard thing — bring an entree, the invitation read. Man, if I just went with my maiden name, Ellis, I’d only have to bring some fruit, or a salad, or something. That would be a lot easier for my tired, fragile heart this morning.

When I arrived at Shelter #1 by the playground, the food table was laden with desserts and a few salads. I think several people decided to stick with their maiden name today! I don’t blame them. Whatever entree had been provided before our arrival had already been gobbled up, so I was glad I had taken the time to spiralize some butternut squash and sauté a little meat sauce on the side for us non-vegetarians.

Once I had served up something for my kids and gotten them settled at a table, I looked around and set about to my real purpose for coming. I hadn’t come here for the food! I came to get another dose of hugs, eye contact, and the sincere care of my midwives once more.

These incredible women held my hand through one of the the most powerful, painful and transforming experiences of my life… times three! This gathering was all the more urgent and emotional because it may be my last hug for a long time.

Before I turned on the stove to cook my designated entree, I had a moment of doubt. Should I even go? Do I have the energy for this? What if I just start crying the minute I get there? I’ll probably dominate all their time of joyful socializing. If Laurie or Danelle squeezes my hand one more time, I might not want to let go.

You see, we are ramping up to sell our house and hope to be in another state soon looking for property. This vision of ours, to own land, build a home and a sustainable farm, has been developing for some time now. All the while, we bought a home here in town and started putting down roots. I’ve moved many times in my life; at least eight times before high school. Maybe an equal amount after that.

Growing wherever I’m planted and seeing the value in every season has become a way of life; a discipline that helps me cope with all the transitions. But Wenatchee has been something very special to me these past 11 years; the first time that I tasted something like the longevity and familiarity that many people who are raised in one town and never move are blessed with. In a small way, I feel like I “grew up” here.

Wenatchee is the place I landed my dream job teaching bilingual students; the lives of children and families touching me just as much as I hope that I touched them. Here, I made amazing friendships that I pray will follow me into old age; deeper than an annual Christmas card could ever express. Through this valley runs the river that swells and changes a little each year; the river that claimed my mother’s life. But it is also the place that, by faith, I found love and chose marriage. The place I planted my first garden, started growing a family, and chose to be a stay-at-home mom. Wenatchee is also the place where I started feeling like a writer; the place I finally started stretching my voice.

If it hadn’t been for all these joys and sorrows, I don’t know if writing about life and motherhood would have been something I’d think to explore.

It is so strange to think about leaving this place — these people — now.

The midwives were part of the tribe that formed around me as I processed the many seasons I’ve faced here in Wenatchee. Child-bearing has a way of bringing everything back to life. It was through Kristen’s empathetic counsel that I read “Birthing From Within,” and learned to make friends with my fears; facing them, separating them from my identity so that I knew that I could stand apart, stand strong, and not be moved. These midwives helped me to find strength in the midst of some of the most difficult moments. They bear witness to the fact that I possess a power with which I can surprise even myself.

Thank you, Wenatchee Midwife Service, for your dedication to excellence, to women, to families. Thank you for being part of the backbone of trust and encouragement that I could stand firm on. Thank you for helping me grow into myself.

I will take the power of “potluck” with me when I go. For whenever people take the chance to gather, and take refuge with each other, they are usually always renewed, encouraged, and fed. And I trust that if I’m ever passing through this fine town, some bright and breezy weekend in June, I’ll probably be able to find you here. And I’ll be welcomed as a part of the family.