Thursday, February 17, 2011


It is a mistake to think you can solve any major problems just with potatoes.
-Douglas Adams

Dinner time.  I pull vegetable drawer out of refrigerator, set it on counter, select one potato at a time.  Some are small, coated in dirt; I know they're ones Dad grew and gave me at Christmastime, along with the turnips I wanted so badly.  The turnips, save one, have already been diced and fried--lightly salted and heavily peppered--in oil and eaten, but the small dirty potatoes remain.  I scrub them clean, take my paring knife to them.

And in my mind I am younger than the boy who, at my back, hums and stirs eggs and milk into the contents of two boxes of Jiffy corn muffin mix. 

It's close to dusk, and the outside air is sharp just inside my nostrils and perfect for a sweatshirt with hood and zipper.  Cool is plowed earth of basic and beautiful smell between my ever-hot toes.  The aluminum pie plates tied to Lockjaw the scarecrow stir, and the tractor rumbles as it drags slowly the plow, and I amble behind, plucking potatoes from the ground and plunking them into a deep bucket.

I want back the grandparents who wave from the porch of their house next door; the mother with shoulder-length brown curls and long thin, brown unscarred legs that don't limp; the father of jet-black hair, cigarettes rolled into the sleeve of his white t-shirt, who supervises over his shoulder while driving the tractor; and especially--most of all--the little brother who has never known pain beyond quick tears of flesh from mis-casted hooks.  I want to be with them in the dusky garden. 

But I don't, because my beloved, my boy, my babies: they are not in that place.

So I want to raise the grandma from the ground and set her across formica table from my boy, a game of Battleship between.  I want to call the grandad from the dead, arrange my daughters on his knees so he can whisker-rub red their smooth cheeks and tell them about Billy Goats Gruff and Troll.  I want to darken my parents' hair, restore their hearing and sight, stretch them, tan them, thin them, un-ache them.  For the brother, I want even more (the most), and I want to crowd all of us together within these log walls.

I can't; I don't know how; it cannot be done outside my own mind.

So I wash and peel, and feel glad for living the bridge between that other time and this, despite the Troll under.  My boy lines a pan with papers he spoons half-full with yellow muffin mix, and his dark hair shines in the old way of my father's.  The babies babble.  I catch the eye of my beloved, and he smiles out and winks. 

The immediate family.  The faraway family.  The root, the wheel, the whirr of the reel.  The real, the peel.  The potato.


  1. some great memories, hopes and dreams....and how you bring us back to th moment there at the end...

  2. This is beautiful, such a great portrait of your family and of your heart. But my favourite part was the description of the turnips - yummmmmmm

  3. oh this is achingly beautiful. you have a gift, brandee. you ARE a gift.

  4. this is stunning, brandee. a very, very powerful piece of writing. thank you so much for linking friend.

  5. I truly feared this would be a different potato story. I love and miss you.

  6. @II: Oh. Yes, I know just the one. We agree, I know: better left untold.