The Harvest Festival

I’m searching through our cupboards for some food for the Harvest Festival. I spy a tin of butter beans at the back and carefully extract it from the sticky ooze next to the honey jar. My husband is a relative of Winnie the Pooh. I can track his movements around the kitchen. He has been to the fridge and also by some miracle worked out how to put on the washing machine. His laptop has sticky keys.

The question is would a person less fortunate than me want a tin of butter beans? I don’t think so – I haven’t wanted to eat them for the past year so it seems a bit mean to palm them off on someone else. I rummage around and knock over several small bottles of spices the contents solidified against the thick glass.

Non-perishable goods. Nothing containing nuts. Nothing too heavy. The school does not want toes broken by a four pack of baked beans. I find a packet of curry flavoured instant noodles. I am not sure this is suitable. I’m not even sure they count as food and I am definitely not comfortable with the idea of my four-year-old, Milk, carrying them though the church as a nutritional offering. I settle on a small box of tea bags.

Off to church we go. I say we because I foolishly take my two-year-old Mayhem with me. What could possibly go wrong? We are offered a cup of tea as we step into the darkness, which is a bonus as I wasn’t sure if drinking in church was allowed, but then they do knock back the wine on occasion. I don’t get to touch my tea. I know this will happen but I am a hopeful soul. I am far too early. A two-year-old does not understand the concept of a) church b) waiting c) silence d) personal space. Mayhem shows everyone his Playmobil musician and then he focuses on an elderly lady across the aisle and pushes his toy up her skirt. I pretend I don’t notice and pull him away. He wants to lie on the floor, someone’s grave I think, and as the school children arrive he says hello to them all, tilting his head sideways and shoving his face into theirs.

“Yellow! Yellow!” he shouts with a manic grin.

“Let’s see if we can spot your brother,” I say brightly pulling his struggling mass onto my lap. He slaps my face and laughs and then, as the first song begins, he dances on my legs jumping energetically as if I am a mini trampoline. He cleverly uses my head as a support. I see cans of soup and cartons of porridge passing me in a blur like a game of Supermarket Sweep. We wave to Milk who is carrying his tea bags in his little outstretched hands, palms upwards as if it is a gift to the baby Jesus. Gold, Frankincense and PG Tips.

Mayhem and I don’t make it past the first reading, to the silent relief of the rest of the congregation. My cup of tea has gone cold and I sneak out as the vicar begins his tale of hunger and despair. I am so relieved to get outside I feed Mayhem biscuits one after the other, and he raises his hand as soon as one has been deposited in his mouth. I walk increasingly quickly to a chant of “More! More! More!” and can’t wait to get home and put the kettle on. I open the tea caddy and am faced with nothing but a dusting of silt at the bottom. I sit staring at the butter beans while Mayhem pours cumin into my shoes.

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