When I was growing up in Key West, seeing a certain large blue mixing bowl in our refrigerator meant one of two things: Mom had made either homemade potato salad (yum), or better yet, she’d stood over the hot stove stirring cooked (not the instant kind) chocolate pudding, my absolute favorite and a true labor of love in our home with no air conditioning.
Many years ago, two other twenty-somethings and I got to talking about making a weekend road trip from Ocala to Miami together. Linda, recently arrived from Michigan, was a fellow teacher at St. John Lutheran School. Jeff, who was planning to drive to Miami to see his aunt, invited us to come along. Feeling adventurous, I suggested a new possibility: how about making a quick stop at his Aunt Nellie’s and then going all the way down the keys to visit my home? We began making plans.
A day or two later, it occurred to me that I probably should give my mother a heads up about the visitors I was gleefully bringing home. I phoned and breathlessly announced the plan. My excitement quickly turned to dread when I heard Mom’s reaction. “You’ve invited people down for a visit? Without asking me? And knowing how I don’t like to have visitors?” For the first time since the start of the plan, I remembered that, due to several factors currently in play, we rarely had houseguests. She reminded me of those factors in no uncertain terms, her voice filled with both betrayal and anger at me for disregarding her very strong and valid feelings.
Quickly I backed down and told her I’d cancel the invitation and would come home alone. I felt terrible about canceling but even worse about damaging the relationship with my mother, who had always been completely supportive and loving. How could I have been so insensitive?
When I got home, I continued to feel racked by guilt and felt a gulf between us. That evening, after a strained supper, we went outside and sat in the cool darkness, discussing the issues (which I knew well and understood) that made her so reluctant to entertain guests. I cried, apologized, asked for her forgiveness and received a huge hug from her. I went to bed, still feeling terrible about what I had done and wondering if she could ever really forgive me. It took a while to fall asleep, and when I awoke in the morning, the sun was high in the sky. I went into the kitchen to get some breakfast. Mom was outside at the clotheslines. Still uncertain of our relationship, I poured myself a bowl of cereal and opened the refrigerator to get the milk. There on the main shelf was the blue bowl, filled with a double portion of cooked chocolate pudding
It tasted exactly like holy communion.