my mom has a drinking problem. and a drug problem. and a weight problem. and a mental health problem. and a husband problem. and a happiness problem. and a heart problem. and a breathing problem. basically, she has a lot of problems. it took me a really long time to figure out that those problems were her problems, not mine, and that the thing for me to do is to pack up my toolbox and just quit trying to fix things. she’s not a house, something that will hold still and let you apply a patch. she’s a human and you can’t fix those animals when they don’t want to be fixed. period.
putting down the toolbox was the first step in letting go. but a child can never let go of a parent, i don’t believe. if we’re honest with ourselves, when we do a little navel gazing, into the literal scare of our existence, you’ll see it. that invisible chord that ties you home. accept that. then let it go. i love my mom despite it all and no, unfortunately, she won’t be with us that long. less time than most, i’m sure. and while things are dark when i think of her, i still can still see some stars.
in the south, food is important. i truly believe a good meal can change lives, make men fall in love, and bring babies onto this planet. i’ve personally caused two of those three things a few times over with an expertly ladled dollop of sauce and a lightly patted pie crust. it’s in our blood – along with the cholesterol – the side effect of treating macaroni and cheese like a vegetable. i think hard work is also something southerners approach with gusto. and that’s how my mom was. she worked hard. she didn’t have time for handmade biscuits or freshly chopped salads. growing up poor, she cooked what she knew. canned foods and boxed casseroles which a child could make on their own – she raised her siblings herself at a young, young age. you cook what you know how to.
one of the stars was a meal unbelievable in it’s simplicity. she’d make kraft macaroni and cheese (always shells) with canned lima beans (sometimes with corn, too) and salmon patties. i think you’ll understand the technicolor tack of kraft mac n’ cheese and the pale-almost-beige slop of canned limas. but salmon patties – those i find aren’t as common. the recipe is simple – canned salmon, crushed crackers (smashed with the bottom of a juice glass if you’re my mom) and some egg. pan-fried like crab cakes and served with a slather of ketchup, you have a southern girl’s dream meal. it followed me through college whenever i was home and sometimes makes an appearance, with my own added twists, on my dinner table these days. it’s the first meal that came to mind when i thought about childhood and is something can always smile about when i think about mom.
love always, sarah.
You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.
– Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird