Sunday, June 5, 2011

Leave the Light on for Me, Mom


I feel like I've been far away and coming home, I'm not sure what to expect. I know what home is like, having lived there, and I know what the people are like, having grown up with them, but I'm still a little nervous. It's been a while. Living and learning among those who speak a different language and have different world views, well, it changes a person. There is an African saying I've quoted before, He who never travels, thinks mother is the only cook. What I'm wondering is, how's mom's roast beef and apple pie going to taste now?

Probably as good as it always did, maybe better. Having gotten accustomed to the equivalent of curry, jalapeno, oregano, and a pinch of sea salt, picking up on the nuances of her spice list will resemble listening to a symphony in stereo instead of the old monaural clock radio by the bed. A unitary sound exchanged for multiplicity, becoming complexity, yielding to sublime simplicity. That's the beauty of mom's cooking. I don't know if she ever read the manual or not and it's debatable how much of her efforts are science or art, but what comes out of the mix, sometimes, is pure magic.

She's a tough cookie, all right, no pun intended, and a demanding taskmaster. She may start out a little later in the morning and punch out a little earlier at night, but there's sweat pouring off her brow in between. If you're going to keep up with her, you'd better be prepared to have your preconceptions challenged and your previous experience called into question. She'll have your head spinning with recipes you're certain she's made up out of thin air and when you try to take a short-cut through the micro-wave, she'll firmly remind you that anything good takes time.

Working in mom's kitchen isn't for everyone and not everyone likes to be reminded of it. Some think once you've been exposed to her way of doing things, the fat lady's come onstage and you'd best pack your bags. Some genuinely appreciate her contribution and wish they'd paid her closer attention when they had the chance. And some just scratch their heads, wondering what's a nice boy like you doing here when the whole world could be at your feet?

If you haven't yet guessed, all this is metaphor. My mother is years gone and I have no immediate plans to head for Colorado. I'm not even contemplating a quickie flight out to Dallas for a warm visit with close friends and some real Mexican food, pleasant prospect that it is. No, I'm talking about beginning my long-awaited rotation in Psychiatry tomorrow. Six weeks of inpatient, outpatient, adults and children, coming home in a place I've never been before. It's going to be interesting, it's going to be fun,
and because I'm not the same person I used to be, it's going to be new.

Leave the light on for me, Mom.


(Creative Commons image by lux increscis via Flickr)
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