When last seen about these parts, your hero was heading out to San Antonio to watch the Aggies play tackle football. They did, and got outscored, but that’s not where I’ve been.
Where have I been? Well mister, that’s a downright complicated question. You see, I’ve been here and I’ve been there, I’ve been up and down and crisscrossing this amazing little backyard I like to call “America.” What did I learn? If you’ll pull up a chair, I’ve got a few stories to tell you.
”You look like you could stand a little cheerin’ up,” said my cellmate, an ancient little man with a patched coat and a twinkle in his eye. I was stranded in that Alabama county jail after a roadhouse misunderstanding, and truth was I did have a hard case of the blues. “I used to dance me a bit,” he rasped. “Maybe a little softshoe and a story would put a grin back on you.” I looked at his cheerfully wizened face, smiled, and nodded. The memory of the little old man’s dances and stories linger, long after he traded me to that other inmate for a pack of Merit Menthols.
But incarcerated isn’t where I’ve been. Where I’ve been is…….
Hiding from a post I knew I had to write. Hiding from a post that may be the underlying reason I started doing this now these long months ago. Sure there have been lots of things to raise snark about. But I just couldn’t. I thought maybe if I waited until February I could somehow escape the anniversary. Pick up after Valentine’s Day and just go on as if it hadn’t been there. But there it was. The elephant in the corner who kept me from sitting down and doing what I needed to do. Writing what I needed to write. Saying what I’ve been needing to say for 30 years.
So what made me finally give in? Mashed potatoes.
Tonight with the Esposa preparing for a sales training course she is delivering later in the week, I agreed to cook dinner. Chipotle Peppered Steak with Carmelized Onions in a Chipotle Cream Sauce and…….
It wasn’t until I was cleaning up the kitchen, washing the smidgen of leftover mashed potatoes down the disposal that it hit me. I needed to post about my Mom.
When I was a kid we were broke. My stepfather was a Navy enlisted man. Mom worked at various bookeeping jobs wherever we were stationed, but money was tight. Once a week we had fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy. Usually on Sunday. Afterward she very carefully scraped every bit of leftover mashed potatoes into a bowl, covered them and put them in the fridge.
Those leftover mashed potatoes would show up later in the week as the most delectable of all delectables, mashed potato patties. She would take the leftover potatoes, fashion them into patties and heat them in a skillet until warmed through and a beautiful golden brown on the outside. The entree’ would differ, sometimes meatloaf, sometimes pork chops. But to me, the mashed potato patties were the star of the meal. These are the things my childhood memories are made of.
In the early morning hours of January 28, 1978, thirty years ago last month, I lost my mother. She was killed in a single vehicle automobile accident. Her battle with alcoholism lost in a single drunken moment at age 46. Over the past 30 years the pain has not subsided. I think of her every day. I no longer jump when the phone rings, but I still long to hear her voice. I no longer engage in endless self-recrimination for not doing more, saying more, but I still ache that she never met my wife or knew my kids.
I still add up the years and try to imagine my Mom in her min-70’s, I always imagine the sober Mom. The Mom of my childhood. The Mom who scrupulously scraped the bowl and saved the mashed potatoes because she knew I loved mashed potato patties.
I love you Mom and I miss you. You have four beautiful grandchildren and an amazingly miraculous great-granddaughter. But you probably already know that.
One of these days I’m going to save the leftover mashed potatoes and make patties for them. Just like you did for me.