Around the time of my divorce, in late 2001, my parents bought a new cabin. Situated in a premium location on a pretty lake near Chetek, WI, this has turned into our family’s Little Switzerland. Given its neutral nature, ten minutes down the road from where my mom and dad live, it has allowed me and my kids, as well as my brothers and their kids, to come together and heal. But part of healing involves cleaning the old wounds. And first, there might be a sting.

And so it was that another struggle would surface between me and my mother. This time, the battle would be waged in the kitchen. The summer my issues with sugar (carbs) began surfacing for exploration, I was planning a weeklong visit to the cabin. Spending time at the cabin has become a summer tradition, except for the two years when I took the boys to see New York City, and Sedona and Las Vegas.

That first year, we were still feeling each other out, having just come off of several years with very little contact. In a nod toward transparency, I told my mother about what was up for me. I thought it would be good to have her on my team. Instead, I was inadvertently giving her ammunition.

For the next week, and really every week I have visited after that, my mother has attempted to worm a dessert or ten into me. Underneath the surface, I believe there is an intention to give of her goodness and to be sweet. But what she’s offering is the very thing I am trying to avoid. And I’m wobbly. A part of me would still like to consume every carb I can stuff into my pie hole.

The first year I was in Hawaii at a poetry retreat, then, this came rolling out:

Bitter Sweet

I opened up and shared with you
My struggle to unleash myself
From the chokehold of dessert.

You offered to stop at Dairy Queen.

Now the war was a waged on your home turf—
The battle of the peanut butter bars.

“These are good for you,” you coaxed so coyly,
Two cups of powdered sugar
Hidden beneath chocolate.

Now every meal was a chance to be the victor.
Will she cave? Will homemade cheesecake win?

It’s gotten so I dread to eat the meal that will finish with
That smug look on your face:
Fresh strawberry pie with real whipped cream.

You’re a worthy adversary, Mom.

Last summer as the family all tucked into
Yet another you’re-so-wonderful-Marla pie,
I saw how all your sweetness was contained
In the bottom of that shiny double boiler.

Now we’re locked in a war that I can’t win,
Fending off your zesty lemon charm.

I am laying down my fork, which can’t compete
With your deluxe, five-speed, BMW mixer.

I wonder if we’ll ever find the recipe for
How to make
Being with each other feel good.

[Addendum of Sorts, from my mom about “You’re a worthy adversary, Mom. Now we’re locked in a war that I can’t win.”: A war I truly wasn’t aware I was in, or was winning. Not even close. Believe me when I say I’ve been aware of your dietary choices, but apparently have only added dread to your eating when you’re here. I really wasn’t aware I was pushing bad stuff your way. I intend not to do that again. You’re on your own.]

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Walker: A Spiritual Memoir by Jill Loree

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