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  • Jay

Mac & Cheese.

Updated: Jul 26, 2023

The combination of the cicadas buzzing outside the window and Hey Arnold blaring from the living room tv where my daughter sits attentively, takes me back to the late 90s. I feel like I’ve time traveled, only this time, I am my mother, and my daughter is me. It makes me smile to witness her enjoying the same things that once brought me joy in childhood. Time, though too often taken for granted, is such a sneaky thing and if you blink too fast, you could miss the best memories of your life.

Her giggles trickle down the hallway and into the kitchen where I stand over a stove that’s busy baking my granny’s famous mac and cheese coupled with fried porkchops and Glory’s canned green beans. My homegirls would have my head if they heard me admitting that I am indeed committed to the canned life. I've no shame about it. I’d never been a kitchen wiz. Growing up, I was the least bit interested in how mama was cooking and more so concerned with whether it tasted good. Lucky for 8-year-old me, my mother paid attention to what her mother had taught her and for that my little belly was always grateful. If my brother were here, I’m sure he’d be letting out one of his goofy laughs when I told him how many takes it took me to get the porkchops right. He used to say “Sis, you gotta stop being scared to season your food… and turn the eye up. What you, scared of the grease still?” I shook my head and laughed while the grease sizzled in the cast iron skillet before me.

The opening to Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” crept across my Bluetooth speaker, carefully positioned on the kitchen windowsill to my right. I impulsively closed my eyes and slowly swayed to the sounds of a voice that melted like butter into the iconic beat. His gifted soul leaving entirely too soon brought my own experiences with loss to the forefront.

Grief is one of those trips with many high highs and painfully low lows. One minute, the waters are calm and you’re sailing smoothly beneath the clear blue sky. Next thing you know, the thunder clouds roll in and you’re facing mile high waves praying that God spares you from going under. Unpredictable indeed, but it has taught me many things. It taught me to feel all of the feelings without fear or judgement, and to give myself the same grace that I extend to others experiencing the same struggle. Loss is the furthest thing from easy, and losing siblings is an unspeakable level of pain. You expect these humans to travel through all aspects of life with you so it’s particularly catastrophic when they exit the journey prematurely and you’re left to push forward in their physical absence.

8-year-old me wouldn’t dare dream of a world where my big brother didn’t exist. Time, though too often taken for granted, is such a sneaky thing and if you blink too fast, you could miss the best memories of your life.

Marvin’s voice faded and the giggles reemerged just as I began to feel those thunder clouds rolling in. Loss is inevitable, yes; but the universe too, is full of signs and wonder. I’ve grown to embrace both while journeying to where I am now.

After removing the mac and cheese from the oven and patting myself on the back for how well take 5 of the porkchops turned out despite grief’s brief return, I felt pretty good about allowing myself the grace to simply be.

I interrupted the intro to the next episode of Hey Arnold, letting baby girl know it was time to eat.

Dedicated to the memory of my big brother.

I love and miss you endlessly.

6.10.83 – 2.14.22

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