Sunday, July 17, 2011

My Mother / My Self

They say home is where the heart is – or where it longs to be.
Or maybe, home is where the food is.
Or possibly home is where the mother is.
Likely, it’s all three.

In Zami, Audre Lorde connects home to a place she’s never seen, a place her mother dreams of filled with smells and tastes of mango and limetrees and spices and chocolate in a tea tin. Denise Chavez connects home to tacos, particularly and incessantly, and to her mother’s presence in a tiny house with a blue-filled room. For James McBride, home is confusing, split, sometimes here and sometimes there, but always where his mother resides.

Mother and food and heart – the three are entwined in ways far more tightly than the connections to fathers, which seem somehow not nearly as intimate though no less strong and full of love / memory / heart. How is it that our lives get tangled into the lives and dreams and food of our mothers? What necessary connection between the womb and our movement through the world? Freud was on to something.

When I think of my mother, images of her in the kitchen spring to mind most readily – or over a campfire, or strapping pot roast to the underside of our car on a road trip through the desert. It’s all about the food, isn’t it? Unlike Chavez, my food memories / mother memories do not center around any one type of food. No, in my memories my mother is always cooking something different, something she saw on The Galloping Gourmet or read in Julie Childs’ cookbook, or finagled out of a friend. My first dinner party: I was 10 years old and invited my friends over to cook pizza. They’d never cooked pizza; for me, it was what we did – my mother, myself, adding vegetables and cheese to flattened home-made dough.

Mother / home / food. Is there a way to dissect these three concepts, to break them apart? Or are they forever melded, held together by blood?

My mother / my heart / myself / home – 419 Hermosa Dr. NE. My mother grew up in that house, I spent my summers there from the time I was too young to have memories. And the food I remember in that house is cinnamon toast, covered with buttery sweetness on both sides.

Home is the sound of my mother’s laughter, and her voice a year before she died telling me she loved me – a message I listen to and save again each time I get a voicemail – mixed well with the taste of chicken cacciatore and filtered through memories of the Thanksgiving meal she created one year with my much-older boyfriend. Their voices arguing over how exactly to stuff mushrooms correctly drift through my heart and through my memories of the year I moved out of my childhood home for good.


If I close my eyes, she returns home, and I hear the tinkling of ice in her tea glass, swirling round and round as she stirs, sitting at the kitchen table.


Vicky Greb said...

When my mother died I barely mourned after losing her for 30 years. I remember asking her once, later in her life, to cook Thanksgiving dinner. We both worked all day in the kitchen but the result was foreign to my memory. She slipped a little further away that day.

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