Last night we ate one of my pedestrian suppers of spaghetti and meat sauce. Cooking the meat sauce required cutting an onion. Cleaning up after supper (trust me, I promise this is going somewhere), I started carefully jamming the onion skins into the black rubbery mouth of the scary garbage disposal monster.
As I’m listening to the grinding, hoping the grinding I’m hearing is not one of my rings or a spoon or a finger, I heard my father, who died over fifteen years ago, reminding me about the dangers of onions in the garbage disposal. Then I remembered, no, he didn’t mean white onions; he meant green onions. His voice faded and an image of my first apartment fluttered through my brain. I was a newlywed, cooking one of my first dinners. I plunged my hand in a sink full of soapy water and came up with a bloody thumb, my bloody thumb. Drops of blood plopped through the frothy bubbles.
Then, I saw myself in a picture taken in that same apartment the night my father surprised my mother with her first (and only) mink stole. Almost forty years ago. She was the last in her trio of friends to own a mink. It was, to her, a luxurious article she thought she would never own.
My father was wearing a suit. They were going out to dinner. My mother, so astonished, she’s actually covering her open mouth with both hands. Even though she has been dead now for twenty years, I heard the echo of her saying, “Oh, Johnny. You shouldn’t have.” The unspoken “…but I am so thrilled you did” conveyed by the lilt in her voice and the delight in her eyes.
I flicked the disposal off. With its stopping, so did the swish of memories, like Ezra Pound’s, “In a Station at the Metro”: The apparition of these faces in the crowd; Petals on a wet black bough.
Who knew sending onions down a garbage disposal would bring me to my parents? It was a moment; their petal faces on the wet black bough of memory. And my first thought, as I hurriedly dried my hands, was to look for a pen and my notebook. To capture what I could remember; to not lose my parents and this unexpected gift of them in the ordinary drudgery of dishwasher loading and towel folding.
This, I believe, is why I write. It’s what leads me to the keyboard, to the journal, to the notebook.
It’s what makes me grateful to be a writer.
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