The Gift Not Given by Julie Bauer Cook, guest blogger

Julie Bauer Cook grew up in the suburbs of El Dara, Illinois and remains her father’s daughter. She is intrigued and comforted by the ordinary in her days.

In the modern age, I assume that nearly 13 years of service is a good lifespan for a crockpot. We’ve recently suffered through a few rounds of scorched spaghetti sauce and soup to get to this point, but I’ve not been able to let go of the stainless steel model that has nourished our family’s bellies and my soul since early 2004.

I bought the crock pot whilst in a fog at the newish Farm & Fleet in Muscatine, Iowa, on a whim, with a howling newborn in the cart and a sad toddler in tow. My initial plan was to muster all the strength I had that day to return the Christmas presents I had bought for my dad, who had died on December 26, following an expeditious and aggressive illness after 67 years of exemplary health. The morning began with a mournful unwrapping of each brightly wrapped package and stuffing the contents that were Art’s characteristic plaid shirts and favorite gloves into a sack, lacking a receipt for exchange.

The Midwest farmer and his daughter ready to depart for FHA Dad's Night Out circa 1984.

The Midwest farmer and his daughter ready to depart for FHA Dad’s Night Out circa 1984.

Over the howling newborn, I learned that despite the unfortunate circumstances, I would only be afforded store credit based on current pricing. Chased by the questions of the sad toddler, I raced the cart through the home goods section to grab something to which I could apply the store credit. And, with that, I grabbed the stainless steel crock pot, which at once symbolized all that I had lost that Christmas and all that I hoped to gain by putting one foot in front of the other.

The well-used crock pot bought with the store credit from Dad's Christmas gifts not given.

The well-used crock pot bought with the store credit from Dad’s Christmas gifts not given.

As I healed my soul, I slowly returned to a new normal and slow cooking food that would bring a smile to the sad toddler’s face and cease the howling of our family’s second baby boy.The slow cooker produced food that comforted us through post-trick-or-treating dinners, cold winter nights, soup day Sundays, and freezer meals following my own health hurdles. While no one else knew, each time I washed and dried the crock by hand, I was reminded of the comfort I felt in being Art’s daughter—the gifts I was unable to give to him that Christmas nourished me for all those intervening years.

So, as I retire the stained and dented silver slow cooker, it is yet another act of putting one foot in front of the other.


Moving on. Aqua makes me happy, and I’ve decided that happy is a good thing to be.