Jayne Martin

Essay


Stirring the Pot


It’s probably as old as I am. Of indeterminate material. Tin maybe? Aluminum? Scratched, dented, and burned on the bottom, it has accompanied me for my entire adult life. It was my mother’s cooking pot, the ones she made beans in on cold, winter days. Red kidney beans, slowly cooked for hours to a hearty thickness, with small amounts of bacon grease added for flavor. We’d eat them with generous slices of fresh sourdough bread slathered with butter.

Other times, it would be filled with fudge my mother would make using the recipe from the side of the Hershey’s Cocoa can. I’d sit on the countertop, legs dangling, watching her carefully stir the hot, bubbling brew with a wooden spoon until it was just the right consistency. Then she would turn it out onto a platter to cool, leaving the pot encrusted with warm, sticky fudge for me to scrape clean and eat. That was the best part.

I was only 22 when I lost her. We were just becoming close again after many years of me being a tyrannical teenager and her an angry alcoholic. I will never know if I was miserable to her because she drank or if she drank because it was the only way she could bear the sting of my disrespect. Perhaps it wasn’t one or the other, but a combination of two combustible personalities failing each other’s expectations. Still, when I think of that time, I am pummeled with guilt.

But then there’s that old pot, and I smile recalling the sound of popcorn exploding against the lid while she shook it until every last kernel surrendered, and the sight of steam rising from boiling spaghetti served with a simple sauce of spices and canned tomatoes. It was one of the things she gave me when I left her life to start my own, and though she has been gone now for over forty years, it still sits on my stove.

If I close my eyes, I can see my mother in our tiny kitchen, and remember all the ways in which she nourished me.



Jayne Martin is a Pushcart, Best Small Fictions, and Best Microfictions nominee, and a recipient of Vestal Review’s VERA award. Her collection of microfiction, Tender Cuts, is available from Vine Leaves Press. Just released from Whiskey Tit Books, her new book is The Daddy Chronicles-Memoir of a Fatherless Daughter. She lives in California, but dreams of living in Paris. Find Jayne online at jaynemartin-writer.com. Twitter: @Jayne_Martin. Facebook: Jayne Martin-Author


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