Sunday, November 3, 2013

Let’s Bake Peace

When my mother died five years ago from throat cancer, we had been estranged for many, many years. For the first time since her death I have been working through our history by writing a memoir about our relationship for my MFA program. As a person of faith, it’s always been my wish to “honor” my parents, but I was graced with two very broken people whom I called Mom and Dad. As I attempt to discover how you “honor” a broken and difficult mother, I’m looking at ways I can offer a truce, however inadequate a truce would be for a deceased person. At least that truce will exist in my heart and memory, and perhaps in what I verbalize to my sons.

While much of our story is unpleasant, I have been reaching to find those moments worth remembering as part of my effort toward peace. I’ve gone back to the more simple moments in our life, before our family fell apart, before my parents divorced, and before some really ugly moments entered our relationship. I’ve been remembering how we used to cook together and writing about those days. As part of the remembering, I’ve pulled out my old wooden recipe box my mother gave me when I graduated from college, filled with index cards where she had written out the recipes she cooked for her family over the years.
I’m cooking my way through the recipes for the first time. Because of the pain in our relationship, I never pulled them out and never felt the normal bond many daughters feel to incorporate their mother’s traditions into their own family. But it seems safe now, and it seems right. So tonight, I baked Butterscotch Brownies, basically Blonde Brownies, a treat I hadn’t tasted since my childhood. I have no sons home anymore so I’m baking for my writing group at work, a group of colleagues who have already read an early draft of this story. It seemed only appropriate they should be the first to taste some of the fruits of this journey.

As I read through her handwriting on the recipe card, still tremble-free back then, I imagined our old times together, once free from conflict. I put the batter in my Pyrex pan, but clearly remembered the old aluminum pan we used to cook with, my mother and I. I could see the dents from all its use. Tonight as I pulled them from the oven and sliced into the still hot treat, I remembered a chewy bite on a school day afternoon with a cold glass of milk. I poured myself my own glass of milk and thought of this journey.  How do you love a parent who is gone and, if still alive, would continue to be someone you would keep at distance? I know. I think I’ll try and bake some peace.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Love your bravery here, not giving away too much, but how you want to move past the hurt and find the beauty in memory.