Heritage

Holiday meals in my home were pretty standard. My mother did not like turkey so we always had baked ham, accompanied by mashed potatoes and gravy, the ubiquitous green bean casserole, corn—and my mother’s cranberry relish.   Many years I have gotten up in the wee hours to bake turkey for Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings.  I love stuffing, sweet potatoes, many dishes which never graced my mother’s table.  But when the holidays roll around, I never pass up making my mother’s cranberry relish.

              In graduate school, my field instructor gave me a copy of a poem called “Bitter Rue” which described how each generation passes down “a cup albeit an altered brew.” In my career as a therapist,  I sometimes gave a copy to my clients. Once I accidentally gave away my last copy, thinking I had another at home.  Years later I wanted to pass it on to my daughter, hoping it would have meaning to her.  I actually tracked down my former field instructor asking her if she had a copy.  She did not, nor did she even recall it.  But she was teaching and put her grad students on a search for it.  They were never able to track it down either.

              Since I was not able to recover it, I decided to write my own, Bitter Rue II. My daughter was about to turn seventeen in Germany, where she had spent her junior year in high school and would soon be returning home.    Along with articles, quotes and bits of wisdom I had gathered for her over the years, intending to give her when the time seemed right, I sent my poem to her.  She had lived through my divorce from her father and it had left its scars which the poem reflects.

              Born of my body,

              Born of my soul,

              Did I look to her

              To make me whole?

              I wanted her

              To have her life.

              But moored to mine,

              She felt such strife.

              And loosed from mine,

              She had no home,

              No safe harbor

              From the storm.

              I would have spared her

              If I could.

              In fact, I’d promised

              That I would,

              Disregarding

              What I knew,

              That she would drink

              The bitter rue.

              Passed on from Betty

              Down to me

              And now to her:

              It’s history.

              The bloodline

              Surely isn’t pure

              And sometimes

              We must just endure

              To find the beauty

              Midst the pain

              Inhabiting

              The family name.

              Redemption comes,

              When, empowered,

              No longer do we

              Fear and cower,

              But face the truth,

              What’er it be,

              And weave our own

              Life’s tapestry:

              A legacy

              For those ahead

              Who will surely

              Need new thread.

              (Kathleen Emerson Stulce)

              Yesterday I made my mother’s cranberry relish—with the slight modifications I have made over the years. 

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.  Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus: In soft whisperings from the heart/The child within offers you always/The thread of your truth./May you cherish that child, trust/That voice and weave that thread/Richly into the fabric of your days.—-Anonymous       

Wishing you and yours holidays that enrich your spirit and your “tapestry.” 😊