The engine that drives our lives and our memories, is generally fueled by food, and ironically, not always the real deal-a-meal…pictures are just as effective. I can’t remember a time growing up with my family, that didn’t have a pie somewhere, you see, Mom rocked the pie empire! There were also both her deviled and pickled eggs and sugar cookies and my mother-in-law was there with spaghetti sauce, borscht and green salad, along with countless others. Later, when I had my own family, my special cinnamon rolls were as expected as the handmade fondant chocolates, affectionately known as colored candies! Even as the years continued, just seeing pictures of those moments instantly transported us, and laughter and love again filled the air – even if the intoxicating aroma and calories were missing.
Home was where the heart was, and getting there…all trivial sayings aside…was indeed through the stomach. There was, however, another time when my little engine could be found, in a different state, with a large wooden table and a German Chocolate cake.
I never really knew my Grandmother, she lived out-of-state and visiting her and my Grandfather, was a yearly or alternating year visit, during which time we tried to know each other a little better as she aged, and I grew away. There was however, always macaroni and cheese made with Cheez Whiz, a product I had no clue about, but delighted in the gooey flavor, so different from the homemade cheese-crusted wonder, that my mother made. Dinner there was a Summer celebration of love, trying to hold together as much time as possible, and then like dessert, it was over.
Looking back on that chocolate cake, I now understand her excitement as she baked it, knowing her family was coming, and for a brief time everything would be right in the world. I can imagine her making the frosting, sad at how she missed all the beaters and bowls never licked, or fingers that spoiled the results before serving. I also know the taste wasn’t as sweet as it could have been, since it was only a production for the moment, and not a weekly or monthly get together, where lives were shared, loved, compared and enriched. However, it was the best she had to express her love, and she did it very well…obviously, since it still affects me at 54.
Then, as life unveiled and presented itself to me, I realized that I too was becoming a chocolate cake. Sadly, I had always assumed there would be meals and gatherings, spiced with cinnamon and smiles rolling into the years, leaving pie in the sky dreams and memories. But alas, like a recipe, things don’t always turn out according to plan. Even now, the cake has been reduced to mailed or on-the-run cupcakes, which don’t require long visits, attention or commitment. I guess it is a good thing I had the foresight to print my cookbook years before, insuring my food would go on…even if the traditions and me didn’t.
This is an odd conundrum, since we long for the comfort and memories of our youth, but in our haste to live life to the fullest, forget to make them for our children. I guess that is why the biggest day for pizza delivery is Christmas – because all those special dinners, buffets and gatherings have been reduced to nothing more than Mom’s house or Dad’s house, hurry home to our house, or out-of-state can’t get to the house, better Skype the whole thing and pretend you were together events. In doing this though, we confirm a generation of youth lost between a stale, albeit a creamy frosting center. They will also never have anything to leave their families, and even worse…nothing to look back on, nourishing their soul as they face life, and the questions and curiosities that might have once been answered over a piece of pie.
Some of the best discussions and understandings in my life came at the kitchen table or at a campsite near toasted marshmallows. Stories and history I would have never known and have honestly needed as I matured, were given freely, and shared with a love that was priceless. Remembering happy faces after a meal, kisses still warm from coffee on aging lips, and little children with eyes bigger than their stomachs, hoping to finish a plate piled high, still fill my heart.
Yes, there is a lost value to the perishables of life…food that won’t last, parents and grandparents that pass away, and children who grow up too fast. It is a shame that we can’t put a use before date on them – or maybe just stop using them in general, and share life together. Regardless, however, some of us can still remember what we had, and like other products no longer made, offer a chuckle or wayward desire, wishing for one more taste.
Holidays may be set aside for celebration, but it is everyday we should celebrate the feast of family, that which we have been given, in memory of life…especially when so many hearts are starving, just wishing for such an offering. Maybe that is why The Last Supper stands out in the Bible…maybe the message we were to have gotten was more than what appeared as just face value? After all, what really is the value of the face no longer sitting across your table…especially if it was the last time?