by C. Jeanette Tyson
Jackson had, once again, knocked the baseball so far aloft into left
field that a near-sighted hawk had swooped in with its giant talons
and, thinking itself lucky, carried it home to a patient, if hungry,
Mrs. Hawk in the next county.
Maddy sighed. She reached into her large purple bag and tossed a
replacement ball to the pitcher. The Little League, she felt, didn’t
know what they were getting into when they signed up her brother. He
was exceedingly thorough.
In contrast, she herself would at least have turned a few cartwheels
along the way to home plate.
A car. A hippo. The moon. These were all things, they declared on the
way home, they were hungry enough to eat.
Jackson stepped first into the kitchen. It was not too large or too
small but just right. Blue and green tiles shimmered on the walls,
crisp as a swimming pool. The stove, too, was blue. Unless, that is, it
was in the process of baking something, then of course it was red.
Maddy opened the refrigerator door.
“Snap peas! Broccoli! Get your snap peas and broccoli here!” it said,
in a gravel and mumble and butter voice that sounded just like the man
at the farmer’s market.
“What else have you got?” Maddy asked.
“Let’s see…. The goat cheese omelet with sun-dried tomatoes is always
popular,” it said, in a voice that reminded Maddy of that waiter in
that small café in San Sebastian.
“Let me think about it,” Maddy said, taking a container of yogurt and
closing the door.
Jackson, in the meantime, had slipped the white apron from its hook by
the door and over his head. He groaned.
“You should’ve known,” Maddy said. The apron had turned bubble gum
pink. She pointed to the bouquet of wild flowers Jackson had gathered
for their mother, and to the watercolor of the cat, Potato, he had also
painted for her. “Sweet, sweet, sweet,” she said.
“I can’t eat any more cupcakes,” Jackson protested.
“Here, let me try.” Maddy took the apron and slipped it over her own
head. It turned orange and then a deep red.
“Spicy,” she said. “Viva la Mexico!”
Suddenly a drawer popped open. The measuring spoons were playing the
Mexican Hat Dance song. “I don’t think so,” Jackson said, pushing the
exuberant half-teaspoon back into the drawer and closing it. He spun
the dial on the iPod.
“Hello, Austin!” Los Lonely Boys, live. Now that was more like it.
”C’mon,” Maddy said. She pushed aside a few pots and crawled onto the
top tier of the azy susan in the corner cabinet. Jackson crawled into
the bottom. “Uno, dos, tres!” sang Los Lonely Boys and Jackson spun the
lazy susan with all his might.
When the spinning stopped, Maddy and Jackson found themselves in the
kitchen of Juana Cecilia, who lives in the mountains of Mexico. The red
clay tiles were cool to their feet. The air was filled with a smell
comforting as the blue blanket Jackson had when he was a baby. (And
still slept with on occasion, though he couldn’t tell the guys on the
team.) “Hola,” said Juana Cecilia, with no surprise, as all the
children of the village knew that Juana Cecilia always had something
good cooking in her kitchen. “I’ve been baking tortillas,” she
“and now I’ll show you how to make quesadilla.”
“First you put a bit of oil in the skillet,” she said.
“How much oil?” Jackson wanted to know, for he was exceedingly thorough.
“Oh, un poco,” Juana Cecilia answered. Then she smiled and when she
did, her brown eyes danced, as if she knew secrets no one else did.
“Jackson,” she said, “sometimes life is not an exact thing but a little
bit of a thing that melts and flows into the next.”
She cooked the tortilla flat like a big round egg. Maddy had grated the
cheese into a large mound. Juana Cecilia turned the flame to low and
sprinkled cheese on the tortilla. As it melted, she added small chunks
of ham. Then more cheese. Then the smallest sliver of jalapeno pepper.
Then she put another tortilla on top. She then handed Maddy a spatula
and helped her flip the whole thing over like a big, heavy pancake.
When it was golden brown on the other side, she slipped it onto a plate
and cut it into four pieces.
“Now, Jackson,” said Juana Cecelia, “please go to the garden and bring
me one small potato, one small onion and three small carrots.”
Jackson brought back the precise number of vegetables, washed and
peeled them, then chopped them, carefully, into small pieces. Maddy,
standing at the stove on a rough wooden stool Juana Cecilia’s father
had once used to milk the cows, cooked the veggies in the skillet until
they were soft then put them into the blender. After they were pureed,
she put the mixture back into the skillet, with a bit more butter, and
some chicken bouillon.
“Stir it so it doesn’t stick,” Juana Cecilia said,” and when it
to bubble, we’ll put a dollop of cream on top and eat.”
So, like any number of other children in Mexico that day, Jackson and
Maddy had quesadilla, creamed carrots and guava juice for lunch, served
on big plates painted with sunflowers.
“Delicioso,” Maddy said.
After saying gracias seventeen times, Maddy and Jackson opened the
thick, carved cabinet door, climbed into the lazy susan and spun
themselves back to their own kitchen, just in time to watch their mom
rush in from her very important meeting with her very important client.
“I’ll make lunch,” she said. “I think there’s peanut butter.”
Jackson and Maddy looked at each other. “Thanks, mom,” Maddy said. “
but I’m going to take a little siesta.”
“This is for you, Mama.” Jackson handed her a beautiful ripe mango.
And like so many other sweet things about her son, their mother had no
idea where he got it.
C. Jeanette Tyson is mom to Maddy and Jackson, and AustinMama's