Before anyone else was reducing, reusing and recycling, my mother was the queen. We hung plastic bags on the line to dry along with paper coffee filters. We had dolls made from Carl Henry’s worn out corduroys, clothes with a checkered past, furniture gleaned from dumps and curbs, pillows made from skirts, rugs from hotel ruins and bread from the Pepperidge Thrift Store. Our lunch bags were full sized and meant for groceries. We composted, we tied together bundles of newspapers, collected bottles and saved all scraps of wrapping paper and ribbon. I have tiny pink foil squares from chocolate hearts that my mother gave me in junior high–just in case I needed them.
The trick when your mother dies is how to repurpose the whole kit and kaboodle.
I can make contact cases from leftover lip balms and Ferdinand takes his lunch to school in a toiletries bag that’s too big for what goes with me when I travel (toothbrush.)
I can make pot pies from yesterday’s chicken. I can make bread puddings from old croissants and soup with meatballs or salad greens. I turned my yard into a garden and apples into candlesticks. But how to change the seams of how it was to how it is, I don’t see.
Without my mother life is a language that I don’t speak yet.
I will wait, and it will come to me.
And I will cook. It’s in there somewhere.
For my mother, the vegetarian with lungs of a lion, I will make roast tofu slices, soaked in soy and scallion and chili sauce, toss them with buckwheat noodles, and take advantage of the heat leftover in the oven for cookies.

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