(from a wild write)
As I stand by the stove, I picture my mom’s glistening bacon-greased southern cornbread. I remember vividly the anticipation I had of her pulling out that old crusty cast iron corn mold and popping hot steaming pieces of heaven onto my plate. I longed to recreate that feeling, that time, that memory. To be six, and my only thoughts, wishes, and desires to be rooted around a timer and the soon-to-be flavors that would frolic in my mouth.
My timer jars me back to the present moment and my mouth waters with anticipation of my rising rows of heaven. I haven’t had any inclination to bake cornbread in a cast iron mold in over 20 years. Just one month into our government stay-at-home order, I have created some quirky but worthy endeavors. The top of this particular endeavor is a shade of perfect gold. As I reach in the oven, memories and love swirl from the pan into my fingers spreading out into an aromatic hug, enveloping my cozy NY kitchen with a sense of contentment.
I let my beautiful cakes cool a bit and then attempt to lift one out of the mold. It should come out looking like a little ear of corn. I turn the pan over, but they do not pop out. I try to jiggle the sides a bit with a butter knife then I carefully lift the corner. It crumbles through my fingertips. Uggghhh—it is stuck to the bottom of the pan. How appropriate; it would be stuck! Stuck like we all are, everything is put on pause. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Is the cornbread mocking me or sympathizing with me? It all seems a bit too much. In the end, will it be crumbs that break the camel’s back? I slip slowly onto the floor. The warm wood boards cradle me. Whispering for me to succumb and take safe harbor in its steady reliability.
After the pitch and sway of volatile ground, emotions cling to me like skin. My breath hitches between a sob and a chortle as I let go. Inch by inch: anxiety, worry, pain, and heartbreak take their leave. Salty wetness fills my mouth. How I need this sudden full release; a monsoon beating against a filthy window, washing away grime that has built up, agonizingly, layer-by-layer. When I finally sigh, I imagine spots of sunlight filtering through the hazy glass; rays of hope dancing in my soul.
With new determination, I stand and get back to the task at hand. It may not be the cornbread I wanted, but it is the cornbread presented to me now. With a spoon in hand, I decided to lovingly lift and scrape what I can out of the pan. I hear my heart say, “Accept what is, with love.” Therefore, with a sense of calm and peace, I reach for my cup of tea to accompany the formless pile of humble bread on my plate. The cornbread melts on my tongue, gritty and greasy. Perfect, just the way it is.