M Is for the Many Meals She Made

By DeNeen L. Brown
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 4, 2005

M y grandmother's hands are wrinkled and buttered and floury.

Her swollen knuckles knead the flour into crusts for the pies.

Now she is hopping on her good leg to get to the sink, where she will drain the boiling sweet potatoes, the steam rolling off the water, melting her curls. Her red lipstick is glistening in the kitchen heat.

She will mash the potatoes with sugar and butter and add some cinnamon and nutmeg. And she will beat the eggs and squeeze in a little fresh lemon to keep the pies from turning brown.

She will wash the roast and season it and put it in the oven. She will wash the collard greens and boil them until they are tender. She will scrape the corn off the cob and mix it with a little flour and salt and pepper and fry it in some butter.

Her aching hands scrape and mix and season and dust and wash and stir as she hops around that little kitchen in Kansas on her one good leg.

The sun hasn't even come up yet, and Christine Taylor has been up an hour making Sunday dinner, banging pots and pans, running water. The rest of her family, now spread over town in their own little houses, is sleeping. Nobody really knows when she cooks. But they know Sunday dinner will be ready after church.

I remember sitting in the pew, waiting for those dinners. But the preacher always stood between me and Grandmother's feast. He stood up there in the pulpit, preaching his sermon, long sermon. Reading the Scripture, long Scriptures.

I remember sitting on those hard church benches, my mind trying to listen to the sermon, but wrestling with worldly concerns:

Fried corn, greens, turkey, peach cobbler -- and sweet potato pie -- waiting on Grandmother's table.

The preacher would huff and the church organ would jump on his words, emphasizing each syllable.

And I would wait, sitting in my Sunday dress, hair pressed and tied, tight, in ribbons, sitting with my knees lotioned, socks turned down and patent leather shoes polished.

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