It was Sunday afternoon, and I was loading my grocery cart higher than I ever had in my life. My husband and I, along with our two kids under two years old, had been living with his parents for three months. We moved from our Florida home to look for a house in Georgia, and they graciously took us in.
This was the day I loaded up on groceries—filling an empty refrigerator, freezer, and pantry. My shopping list was all the things. I needed to buy the smallest of table ingredients like salt and garlic powder to the big things like pounds of ground turkey and chicken . . . and everything in between.
This was a celebratory task because the next day we were finally moving into our home sweet home. Our carpet installation was complete, and we could load up the U-Haul and settle in.
I rounded the corners and stocked up on frozen vegetables, crackers for the girls, and cereal for me. In the sugar aisle, I picked out everything required to bake a cake for my husband’s upcoming birthday. (OK, I will be honest, it was the delicious box mix and tub of frosting I knew he would love).
As I pushed the heavy cart down the pasta aisle, the way my eyes watered at the sight of the most simple item surprised me.
It was Hunt’s spaghetti sauce.
There it sat on the shelf, red and bursting like the tomatoes of which it consists. Full of flavor, zest, and creamy goodness—but also something else. For me, it looked like home.
For months, I had been under the beautiful roof of my husband’s parents who were willing to host us, feed us, and clean each week. I had helped with dinner once in a while, but they treated us to their delicious meals often. It was a challenging time, but also a time of blessing with family. We butted heads like rams and got frustrated and ran out of space occasionally, but mostly we talked and played on the living room carpet and enjoyed each other’s company.
So I hadn’t cooked with that spaghetti sauce in three months. My hand had not stirred the wooden spoon in a pound of ground turkey, adding the delicious sauce and watching it bubble. I hadn’t smelled the familiar mixture of tomato sauce, spices, and itty-bitty garlic pieces. The red sauce hadn’t splattered on my T-shirt already marked with Cheerio shmear, sweet potato splashes, and sidewalk chalk. I smiled at the thought of my 1-year-old eating spaghetti with us for the first time, gobbling it up with her chubby little hands.
It was that specific brand of jarred spaghetti sauce that evoked 12 years of memories.
We were given those Hunt’s cans as a donation each week during our years at seminary in our first few years of marriage. My husband used his ID card to check in at the food pantry and come home with free pasta noodles and sauce. Because that was the brand they gave us, that’s what I used to learn to cook spaghetti. And because all I needed to buy was the meat, we ate spaghetti every week to save money.
I marveled at the growth of our relationship over time. We experienced 12 years of spaghetti dinners after long days of work. Years of giggling or arguing in four different states and eight different homes. Twelve years of committing to each other, falling in love with each other and staying friends. Conversations included everyday chit-chat, dreams about our future, budget meetings, or foster care and adoption plans. We spent those meals on an ugly (but free!) dining room table or a four-seater that we sold when we outgrew it.
We connected over pasta and sauce.
Now with two kids, spaghetti has stayed a favorite. I chop up the noodles for the girls and let them mess it up together. Even though they are two years old and just barely one year old, we all sit at the table together and eat our pasta and sauce as a family. It’s something I sort of envisioned years ago, but the beauty of my girls surrounding my husband and me at the dinner table is a special, simple tradition that provides the comfortable warmth every mother desperately craves.
I am humbled by how God provided for us at the beginning of our marriage and how He is providing for us now.
Leaving my in-laws’ house after three months was bittersweet. We had made memories together, and our girls loved playing with their Mamaw and Papaw. But I am also ready to take on the next challenge.
On Monday, I am making spaghetti.