Nancy wondered why we got the families we got. Was God tossing people, without rhyme or reason, into family packets that moved on heaven’s conveyor belt? Were you given who you needed so you could be fully you – whatever that means? Is everyone somehow in the right family? Does God make sure at least one person can cook?
Nancy’s mum would make pancakes in the morning. Not really morning because the young kids slept like sloths on the weekends, not a care in the world, the day drifting away and nothing really mattering. Nancy, however, tended to rise early. She would watch morning TV for hours. Not the kids’ channels. She had an appetite for reality TV. She would gawk at rich, white girls crying about their boyfriends cheating on them for the fifth time. Staged confrontations about who said what about who and whatever, those moments really had her on the edge of the sofa. Sometimes it would be drama. Strangers kissing passionately after talking for five minutes, and someone seeing them and telling someone. She would watch a lot of people kissing on TV.
Small Nancy, swallowed by the three-seater, not really feeling guilty but knowing she would not watch this if her mum was there. Then her mother’s footfalls would drum on the stairs, gradually growing louder. Nancy would fumble with the remote that would be sinking into the gaps between the cushions. Her heart would be on the floor and she would hold her breath as she pinched the buttons with her thumbnails; frantically trying to change the channel to news.
‘And now for this morning’s headlines...’
‘Good morning my dear, God bless you.’
Pretending to withdraw herself from the intensity of the world – its calamity, its policy trouble, its rising deaths, its war, its crises and crashes, its violence and retribution – Nancy beamed at her mum’s sleep-stained face. Her eyes were small in the swell of her eyelids and her lips hung lazily after she spoke her first words. It was important a good morning was wished upon everyone who woke up in that house. She would hold her greeting in her mouth until it was about to turn bitter before she would spit it out.
‘Hi mum, God bless you.’
The morning was always gentle and forgiving of what happened last night. You could say the most horrible thing or yell violently at your child for a minor transgression, but sleep softened the rage, until morning could get rid of it completely. Nancy would always wonder if the night did its job properly and the new day was truly new.
After a while, her stomach growled, and she began to hang around the kitchen.
‘Mum, what are you making?’
‘Do you guys want pancakes?’
Nancy became very excited at the prospect of breaking her fast with something so sweet. After all, she was anticipating egg and yam. Nice but heavy. Her mum got out the ingredients on the counter table and Nancy let out a shy smile. She was in awe of her mother’s wizardry. What she began with became sweet sheets that would fill her belly. Into the white bowl went flour and sugar and milk and eggs. Her strong arms began to combine the contents of the bowl vigorously.
‘If it’s too thick, you can always add water or milk.’
Spinning over to the sink, her mum shot a quick stream of water into the bowl, and then begin to whisk again. Nancy turned dumbly on the gold stool, making mental note of the recipe. Then the pale liquid settled into the pan. Breathing shallowly, letting tiny, tiny pockets of air rise to the surface before turning solid. The sweet air wafted through the kitchen and beyond. Deftly, her mother flipped the pan, revealing a giraffe-print bottom. Her hands shifted the pancake back into the centre of the pan so the heat could radiate throughout. And even though Nancy knew her mum didn’t feel the scorch of the pan, she knew something else burned inside her. There was a reticence in her face – as if she needed to scream.
Freshly woken children trailed into the kitchen. The wind chime twinkled like an old bookshop door. Four plates on the counter. The pancakes waited to be eaten. Ma didn’t eat any. She worked on the perfect circles and watched her children tear them and smack their lips. Pulling paper-thin pancakes like crepe-coloured pages from an old book. Maybe that’s love. Making something perfect and giving it away to be destroyed.
The eldest of the children washed the plates. And when they were all out of the kitchen Nancy’s mum would prepare her own food. She didn’t have breakfast often. Pillow-fluffy rice and stew was her preference. A mixture of pepper and toothpaste. Two kinds of spice jousting on the tongue. Does food taste as good when you make it yourself? When your own webbed hands slide rice until the water runs clear? Who are you loving when you fix a plate of food and give it to yourself? Rice and stew made Nancy’s mum feel at home. It was like a plate from her own mother. The warm pureed tomato sauce was kind to the belly. She needed this embrace. There was nowhere to be small in a house full of noise.
Nancy wasn’t watching TV anymore. There were too many people talking and running around the place. Someone wanted to watch this and someone else wanted to watch that, so she went to her room. Maybe she would read a book. Maybe she would do some homework. Nancy felt the pancakes in the bottom of her stomach.
is a BA English student at the University of Birmingham. She works across mediums including theatre, poetry, and prose. Her writing reflects on identity, race, gender, and mental health.
Copyright for all work remains with the author thereof and any requests to reprint should be made directly.
Issue 1 © SPOONFEED Magazine
SPOONFEED x New Writing © Caitlin Allen
Issue 2 © Louise Crosby