Like Mama: On Grief and Acceptance

The year was 1986. As the weather in San Diego, California is sunny year-round, I do not recall which season it was at the time. That Saturday afternoon I sat perched on the kitchen counter, excitedly watching as my mama emptied the grocery bags and put various foodstuffs away. When I spotted four egg-like items in a flimsy produce bag, I became curious.

“Mama, what are those,” I asked as she laid them on the counter

“This is your afternoon snack,” she laughed in reply, “and it’s called kiwi fruit.”

I surveyed the drab brown quartet, now lying a few inches away from me on the counter. FRUIT? How could something that dull-colored and fuzzy possibly be tasty? Fruit made me think of the glossy Red Delicious apples I ate at school and the tart sweetness of the plump strawberries my Grandma served me with breakfast occasionally. This kiwi fruit thingy didn’t look yummy at all!

“But it looks GROSS,” I protested, “and its’skin is all furry!”

My Mama didn’t respond to my complaint. Instead, she rinsed off a cutting board and paring knife. She gently begins to peel, and as the skin falls off I’m amazed to see it give way to semi-translucent, chartreuse flesh with an off-white center. When the Kiwi is fully peeled Mom hands a slice to me.

“Try it.”

I take the slice from her and bite in, consuming half of it, and discovered just how off I was in my assumption. The soft fruit dissolved quickly and had a taste similar to that of strawberries. I was hooked, quickly eating the rest of the slices.

“AH, I guess it wasn’t gross after all,” Mom queried, a knowing smile spreading across her face.

Two nights ago I stood in a kitchen, slicing and dicing up two kiwis for my daughter. Roughly thirty years have passed since that day with my Mom. Next month will mark the 11th anniversary of her death. When the details of life push her to the forefront of my mind again, the tears don’t always come. Instead, I acknowledge the fact that my Mom’s presence was so potent that it remains with me over a decade after she took her last breath. And when my time comes, it is my hope to be like my Mom in this aspect, the memories, and love I gave to my daughter providing comfort to her when I cannot physically do so.

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A native Seattleite and East Coast transplant, I have been interested in politics, religion, and race from the day I saw “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” on the bookshelf belonging to my BFF’s mom back in 1991. While my zealotry has thankfully diminished with maturity, I remain the deep thinking, passionate, and humble woman I have always been.

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