My grandmother, my father’s mother, Netha, has been on my mind lately. Just now, as I was preparing a snack of celery and hummus, I remembered her giving instructions to a neighborhood girl to pick some peas to shell for dinner. Which is not really what my memory was like: ‘neighborhood’ isn’t the word to describe where my father lives in Grenada, and the ‘girl’ was working for? a ward of? a help to? my grandmother. My father doesn’t live on a ‘street’, he lives on a road that turns jagged and then rocky and then earthen the farther up the mountain it climbs. Curtains (sometimes lace, sometimes thin cotton) always blew fully out of the windows. And the split-at-its-waist kitchen door is rough-hewn and hand-worn and swings on old hinges over concrete steps.
Anyway, I thought of my grandmother as I rinsed the celery and cut off the brown bits. I thought of the men who pick the celery I eat and the soil it grows in and the bag it comes in and the big bowl with the peas and the cloth that covered my grandmother’s lap and the tiny green worms that wriggled out of the pea pods sometimes after I cracked them.
And then I thought of the day my sister refused to eat dinner after the head of the lamb she’d been playing with greeted her on Grandma’s counter. And then I thought of the way she looked up from her dinner one winter evening in the suburbs of Toronto and reminded my cousins, Nadine and Stephan, and I, after we were making fun of them, that ‘tomatoes have feelings, too.’
And now I’m thinking of when I watch Randy cook dinner for himself and my mother, when he goes to the big barbecue grill outside to prepare Red Snapper or King Fish. It isn’t a big production; it is, like my grandmother’s instruction, direct and procedural, not a chore nor incidental but everyday, a necessity. It isn’t magic. But, I guess, in a way it is – we were all cooking and eating together.