On a winter afternoon, I was curious: Would a stranger really swing by my house for a family pack of wasabi flavored seaweed?
I had accidentally purchased it in Wegmans while listening to my audiobook and tossing grocery items into my cart like a multitasking unicorn. I hadn’t noticed the wasabi label until I got home. For the record, I love wasabi, but not the briny taste of seaweed. My daughter loves seaweed, but not wasabi. Someone, I was certain, would love both. But would anyone be willing to drive to a stranger’s house for $7.99 worth of seaweed? I uploaded a photo on my local Buy Nothing Facebook group and waited. Fourteen people responded, “interested.”
By people, of course, I mean mothers. In her 2023 Insider article, Sonia Weiser established what I had subconsciously observed: Buy Nothing groups are composed primarily of women, most of them moms. While standup comic Matthew Levy’s tweet about Buy Nothing went viral, it was his wife who knew the sturdy joy of finding a home for random goods. Levy was just amused, writing:
Under his tweet, users shared similar experiences. A woman even posted a tantalizing photo of a chocolate cake—a large slice missing—that had been given in her group. I had so many questions. Was the cake any good? Was it still in a box? Was it from a party nobody attended? Finally, I thought, Well, who wouldn’t want to share a delicious cake with other mothers?
You would be excused for assuming that Buy Nothing groups are a place for mothers to ditch unwanted food, but I suspect you know better. What you’ll mostly find on Buy Nothing are the sorts of things available at garage sales: old furniture, kitchen appliances, yard equipment, and gently-used toys and clothes. Two years ago, I joined to lighten my environmental footprint and to become part of a circular economy that is truly sustainable, by which I mean affordable and therefore replicable on a large scale. What I found as well was a community of mothers, in which giving and taking are both acts of generosity. We make connections, and the story of our things grows richer, the narrative thread extending outward.
The same generosity of spirit permeates the Literary Mama community. Twenty years ago, a staff of volunteers began a magazine that insisted, against all literary odds, that the stories of mothers mattered. Now, narratives about motherhood are having a moment, in no small part because we have stubbornly inhabited the spaces of literature. I am beyond thrilled to join Literary Mama, not only because the editors are so smart, but because of the bigheartedness of our writers who share complex narratives, which are sometimes hard and sometimes joyful, but always honestly observed. Mostly, I am awed by our readers who show up each issue and expand the stories from these pages into your own homes.
Which brings me back to my wasabi seaweed. It was snowing when an SUV pulled into our drive. A mom jumped out, her kids peering from the back seats. She waved, as the dogs barked at our window, and took the bag I had placed beside the door. I imagined her later laughing as she told someone, ‘You’ll never guess what I did today.’ Wasabi seaweed became the thread connecting our narratives.