Carne guisada is on the menu for dinner tonight. It's like a mexican stew with spicy meat, onions and tomatoes and it's typically served with tortillas, spanish rice and beans.
This particular meal is something I remember my mom making quite a bit when I was growing up. Anytime I have it bubbling over the stove, it smells like my childhood Sundays after church when my dad would be listening to music loudly in the living room and my brother and I would relentlessly bug each other until it was time to sit down as a family and eat.
To this day, I still pick out the onions and tomatoes, because ew. But the smell of it cooking reminds me of her. How her beauty often showed up in the kitchen over simmering pots and breads freshly baked and cookies cooling on sheets of wax paper. How she always made it a point for us to sit around the table together as a family - that was her heart even if those times didn't end up being meaningful. She wanted us to be together, to be one.
She's been on my heart lately.
Sometimes I wonder what she would think of who I've become. Who I married, what my life looks like. Who I am - a self-taught bookkeeper, a ministry leader, a working mom, an only-on-Sundays singer, a deep feeler, an avid party thrower.
The wounded parts of me wonder if she would be critical and ugly to me about my weight. If she would find something to be jealous of me for because it had always felt that way. If she would be disappointed that I never made it in to the opera scene. She had missed her chance and she didn't want me to miss mine. But, I did.
The parts of my heart that are the truest though - the parts God has touched with His grace and healing - those parts of me know. I know she would be proud. I know she would give me kind guidance. I know she would sit and talk with me about the past when I felt like I needed too. I know she would share her heart with me. And I know she would tell me that my Carne guidsada tasted better than hers, even if it wasn't true.
There are a handful of things that I have that used to be hers. I treasure them, maybe more than you should treasure belongings. But I do because they are all that I have left of a woman that I have gotten to know more in death than I knew in life. They're my only pieces left of a life that seems lived ages ago when she was present in it. When I had a mom.
Her cookbook is one of them. It's pages are full of her beautiful, flowing handwriting. It contains the recipes that still make me grimace, like Chicken and Wine. And others that bring back memories or remind me of the holidays like Applesauce Spice Cake and Snicker Doodles.
Taking it out, looking at her handwritten pages, and making one of her meals makes her feel just a little bit closer. Like she's right there. Tearfully smiling at how I carry on her memory and how much I understand now that I'm a grown woman and a wife and a mother.
Tonight though, I will sit around the kitchen table with my little family and eat a meal that I once shared with her. Those are the moments that it feels like an honor and privilege, to not just live with the ache of missing her.
But to be living.
She would be happy and proud just to see me really living.