The grief process is something that I thought I wouldn’t experience anytime soon in my twenty-three years of living. Two days after getting accepted to graduate school my grandmother passed and it truly left me speechless. Part of me was happy because I knew she made it to heaven, but the flesh in me wanted her back. A few months later a Minister in my church who was like a mom to my mother and I passed. My mom and I had loss two central Black women in our life within months of each other. I was still searching for answers, not sleeping, and just trying to figure life out. Recently I watched my best friend lose her mom to cancer and I thought I was okay, but it all hit me one night, and I wasn’t okay. I was grieving and for the first time in my life I began to fear losing love ones or watching the ones closest to me lose the ones they love.
Suddenly I found myself in the kitchen cooking. Cooking the wonderful vegetables I always told myself I would never cook, because I had great women in my life who cooked them the best. Suddenly I was looking up recipes for homemade soups and texting friends for recipes. I started to enjoy my trips to the grocery store in some ways, and I was beginning to spend most of my time in the produce section. You know, thumping melons, checking kale, finding the best apples, and don’t forget about the bananas.
I always think of my granny when I shop, I’m sure she would get a kick out of me buying kale or cabbage and actually cooking it. Sometimes I even ask myself would she buy this, and I find myself picking up essentials like she did every grocery trip such as bananas. I would think about my best friend’s mom and hope that she and my best friend would make a trip to Baltimore so I could take them to my favorite organic store in Baltimore.
But I didn’t notice that I found peace in cooking, I didn’t realize that this was the little girl in me, sitting at my grannies’, aunts’, or mom’s table(s) watching them/her cook, talk about world events, and control their homes.
On my way to Baltimore from Christmas break, I was reading Check It While I Wreck It: Black Womanhood, Hip Hop Culture, and the Public Sphere by Gwendolyn D. Pough. Chapter three mentioned how black women found their voices and a happy place in gardens in kitchens at times. That was odd to me at first, and I was thinking, “Here we go with this kitchen stereotype again.” Specifically, it mentioned an essay by Paule Marshall that was published in the New York Times entitled, From the Poets in the Kitchen.
In this essay Marshall mentions how the conversations from Women of Color she overheard from the kitchen shaped her into the writer she is.
This brought me to myself, my mom, grandmothers, and aunts shaped my thought. They articulated points about social issues, politics, music, and of course the latest gossip. I can remember starting Head Start pre-school, the same day my mom started her College career. I remember her being in the kitchen of our first home together cooking my favorites as she made life plans for herself, so I could live a good life. I can remember listening to the funny conversations my mom, granny, and aunts would have. Even now when I go to my other granny’s house, we have an open discussion about everything that is going on in the news over a big spread of food.
And suddenly in this grief process I realize why cooking is a peaceful place for me. It brings me back to when things were simple and made sense to me. These kitchen gatherings shaped the way I speak and articulate points in everyday life. As I age I find myself sounding like women in my family.
Life can be very ruthless, but God always has a way of showing us where our peace is. As a Woman of Color, life can get straight up ugly. Killing our sons, our husbands, our mothers, and stripping our voices away from the public sphere. We have been stripped of grieving as well, they tell us and we tell ourselves to be “strong” and don’t break down. Break down, cry, scream, shout, or yell my Sistas. We have a right to feel, and once we realize this we can gain our peace of mind back. My peace for now seems to be in the same place it started when I was just little Christin at the dining table doing homework.