There are five knives in one drawer. They form a bell curve in size with the longest claiming center position. They are muted silver with the blade being only slightly shinier than the handle. She opens the drawer and smiles. This space contains these items and these items only. They have order, are part of a pattern in the drawer they are contained. She removes the center knife.
I watch and she is quick using muscle memory obtained by over half a century of preparation. They say you will always miss your Mama's cooking. I am here to testify that is the truth. Each of her three children have a favorite dish. Mine is fried salmon patties with dried butter beans and cornbread. Couple that ensemble with a side order of ketchup and sweet tea and you have my childhood. Here she is chopping a red bell pepper in uniform and tiny bits. I move to the bar, sit on a stool, lean in and watch. Can I do anything? I ask though I already know the answer.
No, it's already done really. Just throwing this together. The potato salad is in the refrigerator, the black eyed peas on the stove, she points with the knife then continues chopping. The smell of boiling rutabagas sweetens the room. I think this is at least one of the forms love takes in air.
Okay. Just asking, I say, get off the stool and walk over to the fridge. I open it and do what can only be termed as take a gander. Not that I really want anything. I just want to look. There is an old but shiny silver bowl about eight inches in height. It contains pimento and cheese with Aunt Marilyn's sweet pickles all chopped in those uniform and tiny bits. She made it for Daddy's lunch tomorrow but he'll be lucky to get it with Josh, Slater and me around. You can get somebody off white bread with that stuff, just put it on wheat.
There are two pitchers of tea, a gallon and a half gallon. The most is sweet and the other one for Daddy. He pairs it with the pitcher of lemonade. I can't imagine why but just accept that about him. The sandwich drawer is full with everything but thick sliced bologna. Daddy's cholesterol. There is a gallon of white milk, two percent or ninety-eight depending on the way you look at it. The door is full of dressings and sauces and jellies and preserves and butter and something else I am sure. On the top shelf is Mom's lemon icebox pie or what's left of it. It's Daddy's favorite and he always raises an eyebrow at us when we take a slice. Mom, did you make this lemon icebox pie for me? I tease him when he walks in the room. I look at Mom and she smiles and begins mixing cornbread to go in a small black skillet.
Daddy looks homeless, a shirt torn at the elbows and dirty brown coveralls as if he has been rolling in the dirt of which he has. He is carrying a bowl of meat he has killed and dressed. What a ya want me to do with this, Patsy?
What is it? She asks.
Squirrel. Are we gonna make squirrel stew? Your Mama likes it.
I interrupt though he's trying to ignore me. Oh Daddy, I say. Don't be killing them squirrels. That stuff is nasty.
I ain't believing you, Shea. I realize this is a shame for him since I was brought up on those and now I've gotten all city on him so this is when I thank him for the cooler full of venison. He puts the bowl in the refrigerator 'cause Mom doesn't look interested in it.
Soon after Daddy and I are on the back porch looking at the deer and discussing.
We were always called in for supper at a table where we each had our own chair, unspoken assigned seating as you would have at a pew in church. Taking a sibling's chair meant you were challenging an opponent to a death match and ended in Mom saying, I'm gonna tell your Daddy when he gets home. Even writing that makes me smile.
Who's grateful? me.