sneaking in a taco

We are heading north in a few days to spend time with my parents.  “We,” meaning my two children and their partners. “Children,” meaning adult offspring. Which means I am just along for the ride. Some of everything I taught my kids comes into play on these trips: Which songs make for good road songs; which of the two available gas stations in 221 miles is the one to count on; how to arrive at Gramma’s house without the scent of fluffy tacos on your breath. We know she will be waiting with seven meals planned in the space of three meals, but the tradition of sneaking in a fluffy taco cannot be denied.

And we know, too, we will be seeing Oma, my kids’ paternal grandmother. We still love each other even though some years ago I left her son. And because it isn’t enough we will be served seven meals at my mother’s house in twenty-four hours, Oma and Family will squeeze in three more for us during that same time period.

The grace of living runs through her, as it does my parents. Above, my father’s Autumn Moon. Below, the poem I wrote about Oma and Opa a few years ago:

Interview with a Kulak from 1937

she buries money in the backyard
never writes a check
even now
she closes her window during coffee talks
with her closest friend

Oma says no when I ask her to tell
me more

                          but what about when

she scolded me

she knew the rumble
when we felt it, before we saw
the tank cross the Lockwood Bridge

searching for the Veterans’ Day parade
marching through downtown
how she twisted

my hand in hers
slipping half
her rosary to me

though her Bible sits in sunlight on her table
she remembers hiding

wrapping it in burlap beneath floor boards
her father’s boot
between it and a soldier’s gun

I hope the tank will come our way
I said

she said
we can’t tell

which way that tank will turn and so
we shouldn’t stay.


For more info on “kulak”, click here.

For more info on what sort of good food my mom is whipping up for us, click here.


About redmitten

author of Cracking Geodes Open, Making Good Use of August, and The Peppermint Bottle. poetry editor for IthacaLit. website:

12 responses to “sneaking in a taco

  1. Katy

    scary! it is amazing how much one generation’s experience can be so radically different from the next.

  2. Kerry O'Gorman

    I’m full! Your poem reminds me of talking to my mother in law about the war in Germany when they had to hide all of their family documents because somewhere long ago there was a Jew in the family. She only goes so far though before she doesn’t want to talk about it anymore.

    • redmitten

      kerry- that is the case here. my former mother-in-law told me her stories while we did dishes over the years. as long as she had another pot to scrub, the stories would come. but she didn’t tell her own kids. i know, also, there are details she’ll never be able to share.

  3. Ah, Sherry, agreed: Sometimes it’s good to be along for the ride. Thank you for reminding me.

  4. Hope you brought a cooler to store the food. Or, you have my address, I’d be happy to take the leftovers! I love the poem and how the two generations view the oncoming tank from very different perspectives. I have friends from the former USSR, she was present in Moscow when Yeltsin was coming to power, sparring with the Communists turned into Red Square, smack into a tank one morning. Scary stuff.

    • redmitten

      laurie, i should have brought a cooler, actually! but so sorry for you- nothing will be left to share with you. 🙂 and yes, the N (me) was so sure of everything and oma was even more sure that everything changes and nothing can be entirely trusted. oh, to have that sense of trust again.

  5. Pasties are a great Australian tradition as well….
    Lovely poem. Without embroidery. 🙂
    And pic.

    • redmitten

      rose, no way! did not know that about australia! cannot wait to ask my folks about that (and then find out they knew that all along).

  6. Pasties have laced my family together. Maternal grandmother of ancient English lineage meets Finnish former copper-mine working cavalry officer on troop ship to France in WWI. We take pasties on all our picnics as I grow up. With the recipe etched I meet my (former) husband, a South African whose mother was from Devon and pasties become the birthday meal he asks for each year. In my family, they were always eaten with sweet mixed pickles, which don’t seem to exist commercially any longer. There is always such texture and depth to your accounts of everyday – yet far from ordinary – life. xo

    • redmitten

      marylinn- oh your post has me wanting to read the entire novel- tell me you will write it. life with my former husband was such that my kids (our kids) never got to be with my family when mom made pasties….and so, now- to be gifted with the time to catch up for all those lost years, well, i can’t begin to explain how much that means to me. i want to incorporate pasties into my adult kids’ lives- it’s not too late. i am glad to hear my every day accounts reach you the way they do–i, too, feel the everyday everywhere is what holds us steady. xos

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