When I call my grandmother to get a recipe from her she always insists it is simple. The recipes are so easy that she could never be bothered to write it down, other than when the ingredients need to be recorded to create a grocery shopping list.
Though she has always known the recipes as simple, they are my home. They are how I know I can get a hug when I need it, because the ingredients that create simple recipes also create simple times of love. The simple recipes envelope me into knowing I am supported.
Home is where old stories spill out across the table like a glass accidentally knocked over. The timelines of recall move with a swiftness that any other conversation table will be washed over by the newer, stronger memory. Any commentary you had, waiting to share for the perfect time, will be knocked out of your head as the laughter from repeating the present story floods your brain.
That is how you know you are with your family: stories exchanged with the frequency of salt and silk on the old silk road. One “do you remember when…” for each laugh. The chorus of “oh yes, well then mom did…” with each side dish topped onto a plate because we all know the best memories are dredged up over a hot meal.
Each embarrassing story which will be told, despite your best efforts, can bring rosy warmth to your cheek that could be mistaken for a hazy, drunken blush of “just one more” glass of wine.
So, from my home in Massachusetts where my door gets blocked by the ever-growing piles of fallen orange leaves, I call my grandmother at her home in the woods. Her home that always smells like pine and sage, and where the trees whisper to each other constantly — they are probably exchanging recipes too.
I have seen my grandmother make her dishes many times. I never pay much attention because we get swept up in a conversation and other things. I call my grandmother to ask for recipes that I have to write down quickly because she will speak with a fast tempo only musicians understand. So when I miss home, and I want to be embraced by the memories: I will make these recipes.
I don’t want you to get the impression I am lonely, here in my home of orange leaves. I have created a new family, and added new members with whom I would like to give my memories.
I know I want to be surrounded by the loving memory of food and warmth, even though it is a false memory. It is one I have created to forget the fact I never actually ate the meals prepared from the recipes of my grandmother’s mind. I accepted the love as much as I could but the food never made it to my lips.
So here I try to recreate the smells and the sounds because I do not have the tastes with which to summon that warmth. Those times were constant refusals to accept the love that was baked into sweet perfection and then presented to me so beautifully. I refused because I believed myself unworthy of such love and warmth.
I thought to myself, constantly, “I shall first focus on the others….”. “I am not good enough to accept this love”…
I hate myself now for hating myself then. I rejected the loving warmth of a home in the pine trees and chose to isolate myself in the harsh winds outside the threshold. Now, in my early adulthood, I have isolated myself far from the hearth of my family’s home for the harsh winters in New England.
My search for perfection took me away from home. A home where my fingers never got cold from the weather and now, where my fingers turn blue while sitting indoors. I hate myself now for the self inflicted banishment from the warmth of my grandmother’s embrace
And though I am chilled easily by the tree’s steady and constant conversations, I am not lonely. And I get to share my true joy: loving others and creating the love to share. I have others to feed. Others will accept the warmth and the love of the familial recipes because they also miss home. We need to recreate the warmth of love for our own sanity.
I am not lonely because when I ask my new found friends, here in my orange leafed home, to consume the memories of my home, they do without protest. And they listens to the many “oh! one time”s that erupt from my mouth. And they share the stories of their families back until we conversation and stories flow like honey from our lips. Memories so sweet that mother nature clearly provided them herself.
I know I can go back and be greeted with love because when I call my grandmother, she says, “this recipe is simple…here it is.” and I know I am always accepted at home.