Saturday, February 23, 2008

Oyster Stew, A Smile, and a Frown

My son Joshua and I like oyster stew.

It's a simple dish. You put some milk, some butter, and a can of oysters in a pot and let it simmer for a while. Add a little salt and you're ready to go. I put some hot sauce in mine, too, just for a little kick.

We had some last night for Joshua's birthday dinner. It was a cool and rainy day here in Augusta and the hot stew brought a smile to our faces. Oyster stew is indeed one of life's simple blessings.

I remember another night when oyster stew was served. That memory brings a frown to my face rather than a smile.

The context is a little fuzzy to me. I know that I was a teenager and no one was home but Daddy and me. That means that it was one of the many times that my mother was in the hospital or it was shortly after she died. Daddy was preparing supper. Now, Daddy could cook. On this night, though, he was going for simplicity.

So I walked in to find that he had a nice pot of oyster stew ready for us.

At this point you need to understand something about me. These days I will eat just about anything that is placed before me and I will do so with gratitude. When I was a child, though, I thought like a child and spoke like a child and I approached eating in a very childish way.

I had never eaten oyster stew before and I was not about to try it that night.

To this day I don't know what the look on my father's face meant. I don't think he was angry. He may have been a little bit hurt. After all, he had given me a good gift and I had thrown it back in his face. It was certainly not the first time that I did that. I think, though, that the look reflected weariness and anxiety more than anything else. Whether Mama was in the hospital or had just died, we were at end of a very long and hard process--her dying--that was also the beginning of what I'm sure he thought was going to be another very long and hard process--his having to finish raising me by himself.

I think that the oyster stew moment raised questions in his mind that I saw flash across his face. Could he do it? How hard was I going to make it? Today it was oyster stew that didn't work and that came between us. What was it going to be tomorrow?

I remember the oyster stew that Daddy prepared for me and I frown.

I remember the oyster stew that I share with my son and I smile.

Like the oysters, the milk, and the butter all have to go together to make the stew, I guess that the hard times and the good times and the secure times and the scary times and the smiling times and the frowning times all have to go together to make a life.


Sage said...

Great analogy. I love spiritual metaphors using food/meals. Simple yet profound. I found this by googling "oyster stew" which is what I'm thinking of calling my new blog (I have 3 blogs I'm about to consolidate into one).

Mike Ruffin said...

Thanks, Sage. Let me know when your new blog is up and running. I think Oyster Stew would be a great name. Or Jambalaya.