Dawna Wightman
135 supporters

oh, lard

Nov 29, 2022

A father, an architectural engineer, had started out a carny - him of the Barnum & Bailey Circus. He and Hazel met when he was passing through town. That night the merry – go – round spun off its axis, and shortly after, they were married with a baby, their first. They were fourteen.

For years he worked hard and put himself through school while Hazel made them a comfortable home.

But as her ‘no good’ husband only ever came home to make more babies; Hazel told him to leave. He did, he left. He came back - made one more visit to the comfortable home and Hazel was left expecting a baby, her last, her thirteenth.

One single mom + thirteen children divided by zero education = after he left, and he left, the children grew up poor.

A little sister died of a rat bite. In fection. In winter.

One single mom + twelve living children divided by sorrow + zero education multiplied by a school of hard knocks equals...

For her remaining children, Hazel did what she had to do to make sure her kids were layered with enough fat to face winter. In the freeze of a heatless house, the children were served molasses mixed with lard, spread on toast.

Hazel would tell her youngest, a daughter, to go to the butcher and ask for liver for the cat. Liver was free. They didn’t have a cat.

For all her hardships, the youngest daughter grew up to be the Elaine: one of the softest, strongest, kindest, most generous people this world has ever known.

Elaine had four children of her own.

Reminded of the past, Elaine made sure to feed her brood bread and better.

To her children, Elaine was Ma of the Stove, her with those pink slippered feet planted at baked breads, bubbling pots and pans and pies of apple and hearty stews.

Ma of the Stove's mother was Hazel and arthritis had her in knots and Hazel was Granny. She moved in with Elaine and her family.

Granny’s dominion was a rocking chair in the kitchen corner.

Granny and Arthritis lived there but it was just Granny who wore the blue knitted cardigan. Her grandchildren, too tired to sleep, would get snagged up in Granny’s arm swooping and they would be onto her lap and into her, of her, her of the rocker. Granny pressed children into her bosom, soft as dough, her pounding a small back to a gospel rhythm, each thump a reminder: you are from here, from Granny the Rock, Rock, Rock of Ages, never crumbling.That small child of her lap became that knitted cardigan and only that: a hazy shade of blue and minty breath, all because that child had stumbled too close.

Small children meld into the bigs who loved them well.

And now it is now and this writer is from Granny the Rock, Rock, Rock of Ages. Also, I am from Ma of the Stove. And so I am from them, and I am here, from toast and stews and rocks pressed into unshakeable layers.

In my darkest hours, those times I feel deep shame, I force myself to see a rocker and really see fuzzy pink slippers with roots so deep and down.

I am from here and you are from here - of them, of the women who gave us breath. I am from here and you are from here, from them because one of them is all of them is all the mothers is all the grandmothers - them with no choice but to set themselves forward by surging through our veins.

Elaine. Ma.

Hazel. Granny.

Up from their ashes, I am a solid reminder of life expressing itself – molasses mixed with lard, spread on toast. I hope for their strength, that some of that lard melts and drips down and into my bones.

If there is any justice, love melts and drips down from everyone's ancestors, all of them cheering and on our side, saying that every smudge of our story is theirs and in that, there is tribe and in that, there is strength.

Dear Lard, save us all.  

*Today marks 100 people who have bought a coffee. Thanks to all of YOU.

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