Saturday, November 30, 2013

There is this soul, this essence of my family that comes through me when I cook for you. My mother at the stove and my father waiting at the table; my sisters helping in the kitchen with the windows steamed and night outside on a dark late November evening; electric burners ticking, pots steaming, the sound of thick red sauce simmering, heavy bubbles bursting on the liquid tomato surface, and the fragrant steam coming off the pot; and salted water rolling beneath vapor plumes that rattle the tilted lid; and my mom’s small silhouette under the stove hood light. She stands there stirring pots while life rises and falls around her: I am a child with my Nonna sitting just out of view, her heavy-muscled legs spread and solid under a grandmother dress and apron as she peels apples into a bowl for pie; then I’m a teenager and my grandmother is dead many years and I and my sisters grow without being asked, back and forth from high school and colleges, always coming home to have dinner with mom and dad; my arc shoots me over the mountains into Methow soil, where my own family takes root and grows while my parents age and my sisters follow their own trajectories to New York and San Francisco and Austin, always tethered to my mother’s kitchen and my parents’ dinner table, the simmering pasta water and warm room, and in my memory no one is speaking, only the sounds of all of us together working in the kitchen to bring dinner into being, my father’s chair scooting under his weight tight to the table where he waits for us to join him, Charlotte making salad, the wooden tools clapping against the wooden bowl; Angela and Linda cutting bread and warming the pasta bowl with a ladle of boiled salted water; and I am standing in the doorway, watching it all, breathing it, closing my eyes and listening, calling to all those I grew up loving and all those I’ve loved since — all of us called to the table, to my parents’ table, a seat for everyone: my children and all the children and their mothers, and all the women I’ve loved; my best friends since childhood, all the elders, every family who has ever stepped through our front door and all those who have invited us to their tables, and my Nonna Carlotta and my grandfathers Emilio and Antonio who spoke to me, speak to me still, from photographs, all of them with me, standing behind me, called to our table, every time I cook for you.