Yesterday I began what is called a “grief journey”. My parents’ pastor said to start one about six weeks after the death of a loved one. By this I think he meant to start going to a support group, once the shock had worn off. But for me, a support group is not the answer at the moment. Writing about my mother is. For I have come to the realization that my mother and I communicated through writing as much as through speaking, and perhaps more meaningfully so. To wit, I have found some of my childhood and teenage notes to my mother which are at once painful, hilarious, truthful. Mortifying. Oddly, honoring Sally this way dovetails nicely with the Lenten season. Planned?
New readers to the blog should note that we all use “love handles”. Please feel free to pick your own should you leave a comment. Otherwise, I might do it for you.
If you are joining me on this “grief journey”, we are packing lightly. Jesus advised to only take “bag, belt, and sandals”*, relying on the goodness of others’ and the Holy Spirit to provide the rest. As this was one of the central messages of my petite Camino de Santiago, it has never been more apparent to me, both materially and spiritually. But for now, sweet readers, please remember that between the Radish and me there was no baggage. Our hearts were are peace with one another. Does it get better than this?
So, when I write about broccoli I am not writing from a place of condemnation but of genuine love.
I am the child that does not like cruciferous vegetables. You would think a Jesus lover would. Per Wikipedia, “The family takes its alternate name (Cruciferae, New Latin for “cross-bearing”) from the shape of their flowers, whose four petals resemble a cross.” But no, the smell of them is so noxious to me that I become nauseous, swooning with the vapors. I could never convince my mother, who ate everything, that this was a biological reaction, one induced by a complicated set of factors stemming from my lack of a certain enzyme (her fault or my father’s?). I even provided her with a scientific article** detailing this deficiency, one that afflicts enough of a percentage of the population that it needed to be studied.
Above is a photo by The Radish featuring a cabbage and a freshly baked loaf of bread.
I am also the child who nearly passes out at a fish market. Growing up, one of my worst fears was to have to sit in the main dining room of Lazio’s, a combined fish processing plant and restaurant. It was where all the travelers passing through Eureka ate seafood. (Eureka was never a destination, just a passing through kind of town – this was in the days before TripAdvisor!)
I would beg my parents to eat in the bar, where the smell of fish would not annihilate the smell of my hamburger. The Shirley Temple with the cunning little plastic mermaid draped over the side was the sole*** reason I survived these visits to Lazio’s. That I lived in four foreign countries wherein salted cod was a primary staple is an irony not lost on me.
Yet my mother never gave up on me. Hope sprang eternal for her vis a vis her daughters, her husband, her friends and family.
Just as my mother didn’t give up on my tastebuds she never gave up on her quest for my sisters’ to cut their hair. My mother liked short hair on women and my father long. Ever the mother pleaser, I have mostly worn my hair in a chin length bob, which seemed to be a happy compromise [please refer to my post of nearly a decade ago here].Each of us sisters has a childhood photo with us sporting a bowl type haircut. Again, mortifying.
Shortly after my mother’s funeral, I said to my sister MCV Was Here, “Just think, now you never ever have to worry about how short to cut your hair! Mother is forever pleased!”
To which she responded, “You know, I was just thinking I should cut off all my hair.”
“@#$%^&* NO!!!!,” I said, “It was not your best look!”
This is what grief does to one, wanting to go to great or short lengths to please one’s mother even after she has passed on. Say what? Yes. Irrational thoughts seize one’s mind. As colloquial wisdom says, one should not make any big decisions for after a year of a loved one’s passing. This includes cutting off one’s hair, even if it would arguably make one travel lighter, and readdressing the issue of cruciferous vegetables.
I leave you with my mother’s recipe for brussel sprouts, a.k.a. gag balls, which she lifted from the food website Food52.com and a recent photo of Sally at the hairdresser’s. Peace on your journey today.
*Matthew 10:10; Mark 6:9; Luke 10:4 [Synoptic Gospels].
**ironically, provided by my friend Broccolibooksandbed. Click here to read for yourself.
***superbad pun, couldn’t help myself.