(by Fallon Spraggins-Dismuke)
“What? I’m busy.”
“What’s that smell?”
“Don’t worry, Mommy is playing with feathers and pine cones.”
A frail and malnourished girl quietly approached the bathroom door. A she peeked through a quarter-sized hole in the door, the odor grew more intense. She knew it wasn’t pine cones, and she didn’t see feathers. Sitting on a closed toilet, her mother held a pipe and a lighter. What looked like the clouds she saw in the sky was actually a chemical. She walked away from the bathroom, and that was the last time she saw the pipe.
Her mother always seemed happy to play and chase her around the yard, but there were days that she completely ignored her daughter to do her own thing. The little girl quickly learned that she had to create imaginary friends or get her mother's attention by making a mess out of mud pies outside and pretending that it was actual food. She knew dirt was not something to be eaten, but her stomach was longing for something other than a small order of fries from McDonalds. Her mom didn’t cook. It was always fast food. A burger here and a milkshake there. To a child, that should have been heaven, but it wasn’t. She craved her grandmother's sweet potatoes with meatloaf, and white rice with butter. Oh, how that butter made her giggle with excitement. Instead she was left with greasy fast food or no food at all, which later led to her downfall.
Time passed, and the once frail toddler gained a healthy amount of weight. Still living with her mother, who had kicked her habit, she was drawn to music, science, and sports. She would come home from school and sing along to Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” and do her homework and eat a bowl of Cap’n Crunch. Her mother would come home from work and see her eating the cereal, and instead of asking her about classes or how practice went, she crassly said, “You keep eating that, and when you get older, you’ll be fat with cellulite.” She immediately tossed out the cereal and sat quietly continuing her homework. Her mother's words had an impact. She would go to school and replay the words over and over while she sat in the girls’ bathroom during lunch. Instead of binging on a whole season of “Grey’s Anatomy,” she binged on her mother's words. She didn’t find comfort in food, and her mother was certainly not warm unless her sports team won a game or a tournament.
But then a pleasant change of events happened. The girl, now a teen, started running track and cross country. She did well—well enough that, instead of discouraging her from eating pasta and bread to prepare for a meet, her mother encouraged it, even started cooking it. The daughter got the warm and fuzzy feeling back that she had as a child when her mother played with her. They started to become closer and closer, and by the time she graduated from high school, she and her mom were like best friends. Even though her mom still wasn’t a warm “you’ve had a bad day; let’s talk about it'' kind of person, she did her best to be supportive and engaged with her daughter. She attended track and cross country meets and wore the school colors while cheering on her daughter’s team and her daughter. The mother would make sure her daughter had what she needed to participate in her extracurricular activities, whether good food or proper running shoes. The daughter appreciated her efforts and had a new respect for her mother. There wasn’t a need to try and get her mother’s attention or avoid certain foods. She found confidence in her abilities and in herself.
She found it during boot camp in Parris Island, South Carolina, where she was pushed physically, mentally, and emotionally to become a United States Marine. She stayed strong during 13 weeks of rigorous exercises, chaos, and distance from family, surrounded by 64 other women hoping to earn the title of United States Marine. She still carries that confidence with her and she no longer needs to binge on words to feel loved, comforted, and accepted. Her mom now works with an accounting firm in Houston, Texas, and still keeps in contact with her daughter nearly every day. Around dinner time almost every day, her daughter texts her a photo of what she and her wife made for dinner, and they laugh about how her mom wishes she could make veggie stuffed shells with marinara. They enjoy their conversations and are no longer bound by negativity.
2 lb. ground beef (80/20 percent fat or your preference)
2 c. oatmeal
2 eggs, beaten well
1 white onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 c. barbecue sauce
1/2 c. ketchup
3 T. brown sugar
optional: 1 – 3 t. cayenne pepper
Preheat oven to 375 F.
Combine ground beef, oatmeal, eggs, onion, green pepper, salt and pepper in a large mixing bowl, and knead with hands until thoroughly mixed.
Transfer mixture to a glass or dark metal baking dish.
Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 1 hour, 15 minutes.
Combine barbecue sauce, ketchup, brown sugar, and optional cayenne pepper in a saucepan, and cook over medium-low heat until it bubbles.
Serve sauce with meatloaf.