Did You Get Enough to Eat?

I slide my finger between bone and gristle. Moving it back and forth until I catch a thick piece of white meat and pull it from its hiding place. It shreds as I remove it, one part willing, one part fighting to get away. 

She’s happy, my daughter. Sitting strapped into the straight jacket that is her high chair, her feet kicking endlessly. Thwack, thwack, thwack, until I’m afraid there will be a bruise on the back of her heels. Happy pain. Joyous pain? 

I barely get enough meat on my own plate but I’m transferring, bit by bit, until she has a small white mound on her green plastic tray. Slivers of chicken, slivers of fat, slivers of nail grit that she laps up like a puppy, sucking on her finger tips and looking at me with those big brown eyes. 

I repeat the process with the rice, white but tinted yellow from the melted bliss of sugar and butter. Two large heaps, she likes rice. She pounds on it with her tiny fingers, smushing it down until it’s no longer plump and round. Flat little wafers, scattered.

Sometimes she throws it, white tufts raining down onto the stain streaked carpet that used to be cream-colored, long before she was alive.

I used to get angry. Stop that, stop that right now. We don’t throw rice. We eat rice. It reminds me of all those boisterous kids back when I worked at Pei Wei. How they would file into the booths and grind rice and Pad Thai into the cushions with grubby hands sticky from soy sauce.

Her daddy still does. Get angry, I mean. Stop giving her rice, she’s just going to throw it. But we shouldn’t shy away from things we love just because they are difficult.

Next is broccoli. Tiny little trees, I tell her. Meant to make you strong. Bow your head and thank them. Thank you for your nourishment, I say. Because I’m no longer religious, but gratitude is needed, required, in my house. Sometimes I’ll catch her whispering to her food, and I wonder.

Green is everywhere. On the tray, on her hands, captured on the ends of her curls because she’s piled broccoli leaves onto the crown of her head. I think, wow, she’s beautiful. I also think she’s going to hate me when I wash that out later. 

My own tray is only sparsely so, green having diminished with every transfer. Just enough bought to feed the three of us, just enough bought to balance the budget. It fluctuates, both. Going from here to there. I tell myself that I’m creating a better foodship. That I’m happiest when my stomach isn’t stuffed so full I can barely breathe. When that ache in my chest is gone. When I’m not sitting in front of the toilet, or on the toilet, praying for death. 

She crushes a broccoli head into a mound of previously smashed rice. It blends, whacked once, twice, three times between fingers modeled after her daddy’s hands. I meet her eyes and there it is. That look. That big, brown-eyed look of joy.

I know where she got it from. This…excitability. This innate pleasure for odd things. That toothy grin broken up by a cheek full of chowed meat. Me. I’m that way. Despite the ache in the joint of my thumb, still trying to wiggle loose the last bits of chicken meat. Still trying to feed my daughter all of me. 

I grin back, how can I not? When she’s giving me black girl joy. I raise my hand, the last shred of white at the tips of my fingers, dripping juice down onto her tray, wetting the dried rice. Her mouth is full but in she shoves it, finding space for chicken, and love, and determination, and growth, and gratitude. 

The Contradictions of a First Time Mom.

Heya,



I don’t want to spank my daughter. I don’t want to yell at her or scream at her or make her afraid of me. I don’t want to get frustrated or angry or overwhelmed. I want to be an alien. Somehow removed and somehow present. I want to pull her into my arms and say “I know you’re angry that mommy won’t let you climb in the chair and fall and break your neck but it’s all going to be okay.”

I want to temper my gasket when it’s about to blow and scream beneath my breath to let out steam. I want to be gentle and firm and soft and unmoving. I want to be caring and unbothered by tears. I want to stop her in her tracks with the raising of an eyebrow and the listener of giggles with selective hearing. 

I want to tell her about things like racism and homophobia and inclusion and exclusion and something surrounding personal boundaries. I want to protect her from everything that might hurt her feelings or bruise her ego or make her afraid to walk out the door. I want to show her what it means to be a woman but also how to stop gender roles in their tracks. 

I want her to use my strength as a guide but also learn how to lean on others in her time of need. I want her to be mindful and honest and emotionally intelligent but distant enough to protect her heart. I want her to believe in god but not the god or a god just god in general. Someone who will love her when she’s afraid that she’s unloved. 

I want to teach her about art and literature and culture and music. I want to show her how to follow the rules but also how to break them by not using commas. I want to introduce her to the joy of reading but also let her choose her own passion. I want her to go to college but only if she wants to. I want her to be an artist or a musician or an accountant or a writer (please let her be a writer) or an architect or travel agent.

I want her to be happy. And sad and afraid and excited and passionate and angered by society but also redeemed by it too. I want her to be whoever she wants to be but I’ve gotta do my part. So first of all I need to become the best mother I can be.