My grandmother and accepting the fact that I'll never own chickens

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  • June 19, 2014
  • Kari Hernandez

Today would be my grandmother’s 107th birthday. Oh man, I loved this woman. Her home was the warmest, safest place in the world and her cooking is the reason I associate love and all things good with lemon meringue pie and mashed potatoes. I once had a dessert at Eastside Showroom that tasted just like that pie and declared I would come there once a week to have it (it’s never been on the menu again when I’ve been, sadly). She was the tidiest person I’ve ever known. Her simple house was always just so, but I never saw her cleaning. As my aunt Sam would tell you, she could make the most beautiful lunch out of nothing but a can of tuna and a can of peaches. She always ate off a small plate while heaping delicious buttery carbs on my huge platter. Just so you get the full picture, she also once wrung the necks of a hundred chickens and cleaned them all in one night because a storm spooked them and they piled up and smothered themselves. So it wasn’t all butter and tidy laundry for this lady – she was tough.

When she died in ’03 (at the age of 96) and we were telling stories about why we all adored her so, all the stories related back to food. ┬áThat’s all we could come up with. Her eulogy from the minister at the church she’d attended for probably 60+ years fell flat and oversimplified with talk of her family’s love for her chicken dumplings. I know it was much more her listening ear than anything else and we all just saw ourselves when we thought of her, oh and the pie she sat in front of us as we unloaded our burdens on her understanding soul.

So that’s my idealistic view of motherhood and of a strong woman. And guess what? I’m a shitty cook and I own not one chicken. I can make dinner but it’s nothing anyone will ever remember even 20 minutes later, much less 50 years. I always thought eventually I would want to learn and my natural culinary genes would kick in. I’d be growing tomatoes and whipping up a little stew and corn bread while my kids sat happily at the kitchen table. Nope, shitty cook, no tomatoes, no chickens, kids in after-school. I can make a meal out of a can of tuna and peaches but it would look like a can of tuna and peaches. (Side note though, my sister is an amazing cook – as her food and lifestyle blog, Felt and Honey, can attest so the genes do live on somewhere.) Also, I am not the least bit tidy. I mean my house is generally acceptable and I can whip it in to shape for guests in 30 minutes flat, but no one that knows me, especially my husband, would call me tidy.

But you know what, I rock at running a business and my kids love coming to see where mommy has her meetings. When you ask Tessa what she wants to be when she grows up, she says she wants to work at INK (that might not be a good thing, but still, feels good now). My kids eat very “healfy,” as Hayes would say. He loves cucumbers for crying out loud. (OK recently, they did eat Spaghettios but surprisingly no one died.) We travel a lot and probably wouldn’t be able to if I was home perfecting my lemon meringue. My kids have been all over – Tessa had a passport when she was 2 months old – and I love nothing more than taking them on adventures that do not have a kid-friendly label on them. So that’s another kind of mom, right?

I dig being that mom.┬áBut I mourn this other mom and woman that I thought I might be. Someone more like my grandmother, who I truly miss on a daily basis. But I think I’m finally getting it – choices really are choices and you can’t have it both ways. And I’ve made some good ones and I’m living (well) with them. So I think she’d be happy with who I am as a mom and person. She’d probably cut me a big piece of pie and then ask me in her east Texas twang if I’ve “gained.” Yep.

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