penny in a castle

A digital chapbook.

Through our stomachs, to our hearts.

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My husband often laughed at my mom, who had a photographic memory for food.  When going out for a meal, she would not only remember what she ate, down from the appetizer to dessert, but whatever anybody else at the table was eating. And my mother could tell the tale of what everyone ate with relish (if you will pardon the pun) to the most minute crumb.  It often meant a long conversation – one I didn’t mind, but not everyone could stomach.

I don’t know why this is, or why she liked to talk about food so much. She hated cooking and certainly did not pass any talent she might have had down to me.  I think it was the eating she enjoyed more.  It could be because when she was young there may have been little enough food to go around.  She came from a background of relative poverty – although she never spoke of food, and particularly good food, being scarce. If anything she spoke of the fantastic meals her own mom made seemingly out of nothing.  Perhaps it could be because food was seen as a treat and a reward.  She often spoke of memories of a single serving of ice cream in her childhood or a special treat from the baker’s truck that she and her father would share.

It could have also have been because later in life she was a diabetic and every spoonful had to be considered, weighed and counted against all others. Fingers were pricked and sugar measured daily, and later hourly.  A fruit needed to be eaten with a protein.  Cake was not to be eaten at all.  Food was to be planned and consumed, not enjoyed.

As she neared the end, there was one evening with the doctor where we discussed what she could and could not eat.  It was high summer.  “What about peaches?” she said.  She had barely choked down her toast that evening but was looking for a miracle.  The doctor, on call, and not the normal one on palliative care duty, said “Well, peaches you know, they are hard to digest. Lots of fibre, high in sugar.” He did not realize this was a woman already less than a week from death’s door, and that she was already beyond any damage a peach could do.  Despite the fact that a more understanding doctor soon after said “Let her eat whatever she wants,” my mother had already taken the peach ban as gospel.

Two years later, I still eat as many peaches as I can, tasting unending summer and think of her.

This evening, my youngest child had trouble sleeping.  He slipped out of bed and came downstairs as I worked. He said the words that always tear into my heart.  It is a conversation we have had over and over again.  “I am sad,” he says.  “Why?” I say, already knowing the answer.  “Because Nana died.”  He was only four when she left, and it has been two years already. How much, really, can he possibly remember?  A feeling, a moment.  “And what do you remember about Nana?”  I ask.  “When we were there visiting, she always let us have ice cream.”  “True,” I say. And it is true.  Nana live vicariously through her grandchildren in so, so many ways. “And she always let us have different kinds of milk.”  Again, another treat I deny my children, chocolate and raspberry syrup added when they came over for dinner – whichever my children’s heart desired.  “Nana, was always good to you.  She is in your heart, and she is in your head.  She loves you very much. And so does Papa,” and then I recite all the people who love my littlest.  He wanders back to bed.

Later, I am upstairs delivering some laundry and I hear his voice. I go in to see what is wrong.  “I told Nana I love her,” he whispers. “I told her with the cookies that have the heart shape in them.”

“I am sure she heard you,” I said.

For what better language to speak, than through what binds us together.  Food for thought.





Written by pennyinacastle

September 19, 2016 at 1:15 am

Posted in Random thoughts

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