Mama was always cooking up something,
and very rarely eating.
Which is why, I guess, I grew up thinking a woman’s work was:
providing for others,
and never really tending to herself.
Which is also maybe one reason why I never learned to cook.
It’s strange then, how hungry I am, even still,
how I find myself yearning for some of Mama’s nurturing.
How far and circular my travels have been, all leading back to – home:
to those reminiscent scents of Shalimar and honeysuckle,
witch hazel, and bacon grease.
That slow and steady hand of nostalgia pulling me back towards the familiar.
Growing up, everyone wanted to eat at our house,
be it breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Each of Mama’s recipes was something of a legend:
Chocolate gravy and biscuits,
succotash and cornbread.
Always too much, but never quite – enough.
We used food where love was meant to be,
it was our currency and elixir.
And it was surprising to come up short when there was always just so much:
which is why everyone was surprised when
I turned 16, in that slow summer, and gave up food.
Like most Southerners give up whiskey for Lent.
I realized even then, at that ripe little age, there were some hungers that couldn’t be fed,
with convention and tradition, let alone food.
But I’ll probably never know how much that broke my Mama’s heart,
why she took it so personally,
or how I ever expected her to take it otherwise?
Such is the family packaging from which my story started and evolves.
I’ve only just begun to understand that I get to write my own chapter,
within this larger body of work.
How I wonder what my portion will be about:
what stories and traditions my children will take from me,
what wounds and what grit, I will inevitably help them to muster.
And how much I hope they’ll never go hungry,