Today is three years since my Mother left us to go dancing with my Dad. The letters I write to my parents on marker-days or anniversaries don’t serve as some strange form of self-flagellation. They’re a release and a healing process for me. I just know that the very fits and starts of grief don’t ever leave you – they become a part of you. These letters help me to (a) have a good cry; (b) reflect on my mother; (c) understand my own emotions about life, and death, at large and (d) my parents were incredible letter-writers – this is me replying to every single one they ever gave me, sent me or slipped under my bedroom door at 2am. Were I not to write these letters, I think I would cease functioning. Sometimes it is necessary for me to delve into these things quietly, completely and without fear.
Today, though, I’d just like to tell my mom, that I cook by instinct.
Growing up, I always far preferred drawing triangles to squares. Most of all, I loved circles. When I was little, I’d call them a kercle, though. Funny how you “kept” so many of the words I uttered as a child right through until I was an adult. Every time I say circle or this eldest grandchild of yours draws one, I hear kercle in my head first. Bubby was another one. I think about you, doing the hilarious “I’ve got all my bubbies with me” (with apologies to Sister Sledge) arm flail while you sat in your chair, every time we were all in the house together, as adults. I’d roll my eyes inwardly, but I know what you mean now.
There’s that fireplace warmth of having your family home with you that is just.so.celebratory. I do it too now. There’s an especially bright form of comfort that enters our house when we’re all home. I’m in the kitchen cooking, the television is blaring and my two people are talking about their days while I clang about muttering to myself. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? It should. Haha.
Heck, mom, I make frittata now. Fri-freaking-ttata. This past Sunday morning, I woke up with a craving for your frittata, with the too much egg, tomato and the chunky pieces of onion. There was this specific texture and taste I craved, all of a sudden. So I made it, with the help of my nose and a recipe I picked up from my gigantic recipe book.
Here’s the thing though. I’ve had frittata since you’ve been gone, made by caterers or a restaurant- I just haven’t had one made by you. The frittata I’ve had made by other people tasted nothing like yours.
But, I found you in mine, on Sunday morning.
You see, as I turned to the page that listed the ingredients for a traditional, Italian frittata…well, the typical or traditional frittata recipes call for potato. Yeah, I know, my eyebrow shot upwards too. I couldn’t remember you putting potato in them! Nor could I imagine that you’d be peeling potatoes on a Sunday morning, whilst creating those gargantuan family breakfasts we indulged in. Heck no. Potatoes? Peeling? On a Sunday morning? That’s not you. I found you though, when instinct struck and I chucked a little flour in.
Bam. There it was. There was you, in my frittata. It tasted of yours. I found your secret in a Sunday morning savoury tart, because – somewhere – I knew there was no way you’d be peeling potatoes on a Sunday morning, and that meant I wouldn’t either. Sneaky, but clever. Well done.
How I laughed to myself in the kitchen on Sunday. I giggled and giggled and wished for you to laugh with me. I found you out. My frittata tasted just as yours did. Thank you for that.
Sitting here, and I’m crying whilst typing about tart. What a very peculiar thing to do. Yet, so typically OF our family.
I’m 33 this year. I’ve stopped marking time in the years from my birth to my latest birthday. I’ve begun marking time through events and dates that mean something. It’s weird how that works. I keep telling myself “you’ve survived 6 months since XYZ happened, and see – you’re okay” or “it’s been 5 years since you did ABC and you’re just fine…carry on!” Those inner monologues are where I find solace and those little markers sit along my lifeline as items I’ve passed through, passages I’ve turned down and biscuits I’ve either devoured or trashed. So if I’m 33 this year, it’s 3 years since you took off back to Dadadadad.
There’s a tiny part of me, that creeps up every now and again, and ponders “I wonder what that’s like?” I like to think it’s great, but I’ve zero personal experience on the afterlife and no right to assume anything. But, I can daydream, because it’s a strange comfort. So I allow myself to, every now and then, just to get through a hard day or past spots like these.
Maybe the worst part, right now? Is not knowing if I’m entirely screwing up parenting right now. There are some things I’d only really tell you, or ask you, so I often feel a tiny little bit rudderless in this respect. I do know this much though – the right decisions in that regard are not the ones other people tell me I should make.
They’re the ones that come entirely from within me, and some people call that maternal instinct. I don’t though, I call it you.
That fierce and unbridled protective voice of mama that roars when it needs to, and cries when its embarrassing for the kid, and yells when it’s pissed off, and claps with complete glee, whilst doing a little dance of pride, and the shiny-eyed “no I’m not crying, I’m just very proud of you” face…
That’s not some weird instinct that came out of nowhere. That’s all you.
It’s the self-same instinct that put the flour in the frittata.
These are the places I find you. In my kitchen and somewhere in the fuddle-muddle of funny daily life. I find you, as I
cook by instinct.