Across from me at the kitchen table, my mother smiles over red wine that she drinks out of a measuring glass.
She says she doesn’t deprive herself,
but I’ve learned to find nuance in every movement of her fork.
In every crinkle in her brow as she offers me the uneaten pieces on her plate.
I’ve realized she only eats dinner when I suggest it.
I wonder what she does when I’m not there to do so.
Maybe this is why my house feels bigger each time I return; it’s proportional.
As she shrinks the space around her seems increasingly vast.
She wanes while my father waxes. His stomach has grown round with wine, late nights, oysters, poetry. A new girlfriend who was overweight as a teenager, but my dad reports that now she’s “crazy about fruit.”
It was the same with his parents;
as my grandmother became frail and angular her husband swelled to red round cheeks, rotund stomach
and I wonder if my lineage is one of women shrinking
making space for the entrance of men into their lives
not knowing how to fill it back up once they leave.
I have been taught accommodation.
My brother never thinks before he speaks.
I have been taught to filter.
“How can anyone have a relationship to food?” He asks, laughing, as I eat the black bean soup I chose for its lack of carbs.
I want to tell say: we come from difference, Jonas,
you have been taught to grow out
I have been taught to grow in
you learned from our father how to emit, how to produce, to roll each thought off your tongue with confidence, you used to lose your voice every other week from shouting so much
I learned to absorb
I took lessons from our mother in creating space around myself
I learned to read the knots in her forehead while the guys went out for oysters
and I never meant to replicate her, but
spend enough time sitting across from someone and you pick up their habits
that’s why women in my family have been shrinking for decades.
We all learned it from each other, the way each generation taught the next how to knit
weaving silence in between the threads
which I can still feel as I walk through this ever-growing house,
picking up all the habits my mother has unwittingly dropped like bits of crumpled paper from her pocket on her countless trips from bedroom to kitchen to bedroom again,
Nights I hear her creep down to eat plain yogurt in the dark, a fugitive stealing calories to which she does not feel entitled.
Deciding how many bites is too many
How much space she deserves to occupy.
Watching the struggle I either mimic or hate her,
And I don’t want to do either anymore
but the burden of this house has followed me across the country
I asked five questions in genetics class today and all of them started with the word “sorry”.
I don’t know the requirements for the sociology major because I spent the entire meeting deciding whether or not I could have another piece of pizza
a circular obsession I never wanted but
inheritance is accidental
still staring at me with wine-stained lips from across the kitchen table.
|Jonathan, 55:||There is no such thing as “the only one”. You will meet lots of “the ones”. Only commit when the timing is right for the both of you – that can take years for some, and that’s okay.|
|Miranda, 24:||Drop pre-med.|
|Isaac, 48:||Deodorant does not count as a shower, and that haircut only looked good on Bon Jovi.|
|Anya, 42:||Make the conscious decision to be happy, and then stick with it. Society will do everything in its power to convince you that your personal happiness is dependent on something external – beauty, success, wealth, etc. – it isn’t.|
|Parker, 55:||60% of the things you think are important now won’t matter a whit to you by the time you reach 50. The trick is to figure out the important 40% and work it.|
|Megan, 34:||He doesn’t love you, and you will be okay.|
|Peter, 58:||Don’t let anything stand in your way of taking part (or all) of your junior year abroad. You’ll never again have quite the same opportunity to experience a foreign land, for an extended period of time, in your youth. It is destined to be one of the most memorable aspects of your life.|
|Eleanor, 67:||Talk less. Listen more.|
|Donald, 27:||There’s a huge difference between who you want to be and who everyone around you wants you to be. Figure out which is which.|
|Camille, 56:||Always remember: when falling off a horse, pull your tongue in.|
|Jackson, 57:||No one knows anything for sure. They’re all just doing the best they can with what they have, just like you.|
|Vicki, 47:||You’ll never have all the answers, so make every question count.|
|Donald, 38:||You don’t have to grow up to be the dad you never had.|
|Katelyn, 30:||Make the most out of college. You will never again be at a place where your only goal is to learn. Learn a lot, learn often, and learn with reckless abandon.|
|Joshua, 55:||Women love to laugh.|
|Annabelle, 38:||Drugs are not beautiful, glamorous or opulent. They are not a remedy, a solution, a cure-all, or a cure-anything.|
|Colin, 50:||You miss so much life when you sleep until 3 PM. Wake up to see sunrises; they are the most stunning of nature’s masterpieces.|
|Eleanor, 26:||Eating two pints of ice cream won’t make you happy. Neither will sprinting 10 miles. Be nice to yourself.|
|Aaron, 52:||Don’t forget to ask that girl in the Oberlin library what kind of perfume she’s wearing. You’ll buy it for her in 20 years.|
|Scarlett, 54:||Don’t be afraid to be yourself. Those that get you will love you, those that don’t, well, their loss. Just remember: Wherever you are, it’s a party.|
|Zack, 9:||I hope you’re awesome. And be nice to girls.|