Back in January or February, I sat wide awake in the middle of the night. This was nothing new; pregnancy insomnia became a nightly visitor for me. But on this night, sitting up in the darkness, I had only one thought: I want steak. I want grilled flank steak with juicy heirloom tomatoes and tender avocado on the side. When Amanda came to tell me goodbye before she left for work, I told her, “Steak for dinner.” And you may be sure, I made good on that.
It was the first real craving I had, and it was the first time in many weeks that I actually wanted a food. But it also started a chain reaction. I could finally think about food without my stomach turning, and that’s exactly what I did: I fantasized about food. My thoughts ran to the summer months, to spicy zucchini bread and juicy tomatoes, to cherries that would stain my fingertips. To nectarines. To peaches.
It’s an odd thing to be rounding the corner to the end of my pregnancy. At 35 weeks, we’re nearly completely ready. We have diapers and clothes, a bassinet and sweet little receiving blankets. I’ve made tiny crochet hats, and Amanda has decorated his room. I have weirdo pregnancy dreams about going into labor and then the hospital falling into a sinkhole while I’m in the elevator on the way to labor and delivery; about bringing home the baby and then realizing I’ve forgotten to change his diaper for the last two weeks.
Wise veterans encourage me to enjoy this time – hang out with Amanda, relax, sleep. Sleep is a big deal, as I’m told I’ll basically never sleep again (or at least, not the same). I told Amanda last night that my goal is to be a bit bored in the weeks before my due date because I think it’ll be a long time before I really get to feel bored again, before my days can yawn out in front of me with blocks of unclaimed time. I have fantasies about reading books, starting craft projects.
And even as I want to savor this time, I also want it to hurry past me. I want to meet this child who kicks and distorts my belly, who feels so heavy already.
Hurry up, I think. Slow down and enjoy it, I think. (What a lot of pressure to accomplish both, I realize!)
Last weekend, I was gifted a lovely basket of Fort Valley, Georgia peaches. My step-father handed me the basket and told me they had likely been picked the day before, when he had visited the Lane Orchard. The first were just sliced and eaten right out of hand. They’ve been part of our breakfasts, chopped up on my yogurt each morning and drizzled with honey. And now, when I walk past them on the counter, I no longer have to bend down and bring my face close to smell them; the whole air around them smells peachy and floral.
Slow down and enjoy these. And also, good gracious, hurry, before they go bad.
I’m used to the cruel brevity of seasons by now. When I lived in Virginia, you could blink and miss strawberry season. Local figs were available for mere minutes. Sweet corn burst into our lives like 4th of July fireworks, only to recede into the background and then, before we realized it, leave us altogether. And peaches – oh, peaches – they follow suit, here and then gone, quick to please and then quick to say goodbye. Living in California for three years lulled me into a false sense of a perpetual growing season, with year-round strawberries and bountiful markets five days a week. The east coast has different rules; seasonality is once again the law. Things are temporary; enjoy them while they last.
I can’t help but draw the similarity between those ripened peaches on my countertop and this season I’m in, the season that is, really, almost over: in a matter of weeks, I’ll be holding my son in my arms instead of waddling around with him in my belly. Hurry up. Slow down. Savor, but quickly.
Were I not pregnant, I’d likely have attempted something ambitious like peach butter, pulling out my canning pot and really going for it. But I’m large and lumbering and tired, so I turn instead to my kitchen oracle, Deb Perelman, and her peach shortbread. Buttery crust, made richer and deeper by browned butter, is layered with thinly sliced peaches that, after baking, become jammy, mixing with just a bit more crumb sprinkled on top. It only uses two or three peaches, so it’s not exactly a way to bash through a whole basket, but it is a good way to extend the experience, to savor the season and stretch it, ever so slightly, even as it hurries by.