It is a moment of no significance.
We are standing Christmas Day in the outdoor kitchen—adults in parkas and kids cavorting—gathered around the big propane burner my wife pulls out to fry doughnuts or fish and hush puppies or French fries, like her father did.
Today it is paper-thin potato slices, bound with butter and roasted garlic, layered and weighted in a loaf pan for days, and then finally cut into elongated bricks. Pam is making these things for the first time, and the butter that holds them together is melting in the hot oil. They are threatening to fall apart, but Pam keeps gently turning them, some slices breaking off and darkening into kettle fries. But mostly the long columns of potato and garlic are holding together by a butter thread, slowly crisping golden and then brown until she ladles the first one like a newborn into a pan swaddled with paper towels. The wows and oohs swell and the grandchildren elbow in to be the first, and we all break off a steaming piece. When mine lands on my tongue I say ‘I don’t need heaven!’ Everyone laughs. It is that good.
No one gave it another thought, but it kept coming back to me. I don’t need heaven. I said that only because I usually do. Whatever I have isn’t quite enough. I need it better, want it ultimate. I want my light without any shadow. Lately, in fact, I have noted how in the midst of certain holiday happiness, I cannot feel it because I am still brooding about something from yesterday.
And then a potato and garlic fry can shake me out of anything but delight—the way a parent can sweep up a grumping child and tickle it into forgetfulness—and I am there.
Most of our needs can never be met. Your loved ones can’t do it for you, God cannot do it either. If you need it, especially if you need it bad, it won’t come. But if you can forget about it, or be surprised at some random thing—I don’t know—a potato, you can be jolted into joy.