Monday, January 10, 2011


My Mother was a wonderful cook in a time when we rarely "ate out." Meat, potatoes and vegetables with fruit dessert were produced seven days a week.

Every three, four weeks when the cottage cheese containers of leftover pork and beef multiplied in the darkness of the refrigerator, Mom made chopsuey. If you are picturing a wok of aromatic stir fry, put a lid on it. Only the bean sprouts were fresh out of a can. I was never one to hang around the kitchen, so I can’t tell you what made the sauce. We ate it on rice and were dubiously thankful.

Correlate fresh, stir fried vegetables to new memories. Chopsuey is the hodgepodge of old memories, some true and some emotional reactions. The pot bubbles just below the surface. Sometimes it flavors our dreams. Sometimes a juicy tidbit is forked up by conversation, a newspaper article, or a “cringe.”

This is what I call a “cringe”:  I am working at a neutral task like weeding the garden or scrubbing the kitchen sink. Out of the soup arises a smelly memory of a past minor wickedness and involuntarily, I cringe. Not another soul is present to witness the jerk of my shoulders. I am alone with shame.

Like the time I locked out my college roommates. The Halloween we bowed to social pressure from an opinionated member of our congregation, and said “no” to our intricately, gruesomely made-up 13 year old eager to trick-or-treat in our neighborhood.

That’s all you’re going to get of my “cringes.” You’re stuck with your own. Knowing mine won’t make yours any more palatable.


  1. Peer pressure is thought to be an artifact of high school and once you get out of school the whole concept of higher learning takes over and this is no longer an issue.

  2. I love your writing, and I especially like "cringes." As a pastor's kid growing up in the 50s and 60s, I certainly experienced "cringe" moments.