I don’t believe in accidents. Everything happens for a reason.
I had no intention to celebrate Mother’s Day this year. I’ve been in a depressive funk. I just wanted to pass the day, alone, and without tears. But my mother had other plans.
Warm days had finally arrived and I had been craving barbecue. I usually do my shopping on Sundays, but this weekend I had an inkling to do it on Saturday. I had a short list and on that list was pork ribs. I had to have them. So, I marched into the store with a purpose and in short order I gathered my few items and waited in the long line.
There were so many people on a Saturday afternoon. I wasn’t used to the crowds. I waited, marveling, wondering why everyone decided to do their shopping right then. I wondered at myself. I wasn’t planning to cook that night. Why was I there? I could’ve have waited until Sunday, like usual. At that moment, I noted the party balloons on display and remembered that Sunday was Mother’s Day. Everyone must be preparing for their feasts, I thought. By the time it was my turn to check out, I had already forgotten.
When I woke up this morning, I settled in for a day of doing nothing. I felt tired. I saw everyone’s Mother’s Day greetings on social media and I felt even more tired. I wanted to indulge in my funk. I considered not cooking for the week. After all, I had some cereal and Hot Pockets. Cooking seemed a bit much at the moment.
Before I knew what I was doing, however, I was in the kitchen, washing dishes and I wasn’t sure how I got there. I was going through the motions, smearing horseradish and mustard on the ribs when suddenly I realized what day it was. Of course, I knew what day it was, but in that moment, my hands on the meat, I knew. And I also knew why I was doing what I was doing at that particular moment. I realized then why I had craved barbecue, particularly pork ribs, and it’s not because it’s summer.
Mother’s Day, like Memorial Day and my mother’s birthday is a feast day. Ever since my mother died, I’ve given the day more importance. It’s yet another way I honor my Ancestors. Two years ago, I marked the day with a special tattoo that I dedicated to Them. My Ancestors are the reasons I live and breathe and yet I had put myself ahead of Them and, in that moment, They reminded me. My mother reminded me. This is my day.
My mom loved barbecue ribs. On her birthday, in February, I usually prepare a Southern/soul food-style dinner with ribs, some kind of sautéed greens, some type of bread and chocolate cake. Today, I had no such meal planned. Didn’t even occur to me. But it was like I said: the Dead had other plans.
As soon as I had the ribs in the oven, I knew I had to make some skillet cornbread. I couldn’t not have it. But I didn’t have any Jiffy mix. Would you believe that I have never made cornbread without Jiffy? My Grandma Marie (mom’s mom born and raised in New Orleans) must’ve been with me today. I pulled out the cornmeal and quickly whipped it up, subbing plain kefir for the lack of buttermilk.
Then the ribs were done and I let them rest on a plate. Suddenly, I had another urge. Chocolate cake. No, I thought. Too much. But the feeling was strong and by now I knew that my simple dinner had turned into a feast. There had to be cake.
So, I gave in. But did I have the ingredients for chocolate cake? I made do with a couple scoops of Nutella added to the creamed butter/sugar/egg mixture and a half cup of chocolate kefir instead of milk. To that I mixed one cup of flour with baking soda and powder. It didn’t look like much, but the cake rose quickly and it is the lightest, fluffiest cake I’ve ever made. I thought it would make a perfect pairing with a couple clementine oranges I was gifted by a co-worker on Friday. My mom loved those little oranges. (See what I mean by “everything happens for a reason”? Those oranges were not meant for me. One co-worker gave them to another who offered them to me. I almost said no, but decided to take them anyway.)
The (Stouffer’s) macaroni was finishing in the oven as I quickly sautéed some onions with leftover bok choy and some frozen brussels sprouts thrown in. I reheated the ribs and all was ready.
At the end of it, I didn’t feel so depressed and was definitely in the holiday spirit. I lay out the food, fresh water, lit a candle and thanked my mother, all my Mothers, for reminding me who I am and where I come from. Without them, I would not be. My life, my strength, my being…all from Them.
May They never be forgotten. What is remembered, lives.
Happy Mother’s Day!