Cornbread and Slave Ships and Irresponsible Boys

Yesterday was a very long and draining day. The night before, I had literally collapsed in my husband’s arms. I’m still not sure what happened. One minute, we were hugging. The next, my knees were buckling and I almost fainted. He says I was swooning for him.

All joking aside, it scared me just a bit. He checked all my vitals, which were fine. I crawled into bed and worried. And then I looked up “stroke symptoms in women” on my phone (my right hand had briefly gone numb as well, likely a pinched nerve). And then I lay awake worrying about whether I should have gone to the emergency room. Needless to say, my already sleep-deprived state was not improved that night.

The next morning, my head still felt a little swimmy but I prepared myself for work. All day, I felt a little “off”. Sometimes I felt light-headed but generally, I just felt weak – not unlike how I feel after donating blood.

At work, I soon found out that I needed to drive two hours to pick up something needed for my job. After talking to a nurse friend, my husband and I decided that he would drive me – just in case whatever happened the night before happened again.

It didn’t. But the four hours on the road didn’t help my recovery either. I spent a couple more hours at work and then went home. My husband was, of course, now very behind on what he planned on doing that day so he got back to it while I ran Jane to volleyball practice.

When I got home, I lay down for awhile. I just kind of stayed in a funk, eventually getting up to tell my husband that I had no intention of fixing dinner. I then sat down on the couch to eat some cold leftovers and later asked my youngest if he wanted the last piece of leftover pizza. The middle child, I told to fend for himself.

As I sat on the couch, preparing to go retrieve our daughter, Daryl came in. It was 7:40 – less than an hour before his bedtime.

“Hey, mom!” he announced, with way too much energy (in my mind). “I need to fix an African American dish and take it to school tomorrow.”

“Do WHAT?!

He repeated himself.

“And why do you need to do that?”

“We are studying immigrant groups and we are supposed to fix a dish that they would have brought with them when they came here.”

“And you think the slaves baked cornbread and brought it with them before they were forced onto the slave ships and brought over here against their will?”


“No! They didn’t bring cornbread!”

“Well, what did they bring?”

“I don’t know! Probably nothing. How long have you known about this assignment?”

“I just found out it was due tomorrow today.” (I doubt that very much).

“And you did math stuff on the computer and then played video games online with your brother and waited until now to tell me because…?”

“I forgot.”


“We could look up ‘African American recipes’ online and see what they would have made.”

I stared at him for a minute, not having the energy to delve into all the social, political, racial issues bubbling up in my head. The fact that (what I would consider) “true” African immigrants are not nearly the same thing as the large ethnic group we refer to as “African Americans” seemed too complex for me to handle.

“Looking up ‘African American recipes’ online will turn up recipes that people, most likely primarily from the South, would fix today, not what the slaves brought with them,” I finally managed.

My brain wasn’t functioning. And I didn’t want to help research and fix a dish after returning from volleyball practice.

“Let me go talk to your dad and see how he wants to handle it.”

I walked out to my husband’s studio and spat out the incredible tale of our son’s forgetfulness and what now needed to happen.

“How seriously do you think they are going to take this?” he asked.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean,” he clarified, “do you think anyone is really going to notice or care that the slaves didn’t really bring cornbread?”

“So you want him to just make cornbread?”

“Sure. Why not?”

“Do you know how to make cornbread?”

He shrugged. “It’s not that hard.”

“Do we even have corn meal?”

“I think so… don’t we?”

“I doubt it. Tell you what. I need to go get Jane. You check for a recipe and ingredients and then text me what we need.”

“Just go to the store and pick up a corn bread kit.”


And, of course, Jane’s coach kept the team an extra thirty minutes for a pre-tournament pep talk. And then we went to the store and bought a cornbread mix. And then I got home long after the boys went to bed and lay down again and decided the cornbread could wait until morning. After all, the rotten child whose idea it was should play a significant role in its preparation.

Small Wonders… or Sibling Love

It was a rough weekend. My arms are swollen and itchy with poison ivy, acquired while doing cleanup at a cemetery on Saturday. My husband is still recovering from some severe vertigo that hit him hard on Sunday. Jane was surprised by an early arrival for which she had not packed supplies. And Daryl… well, Daryl beat himself up.

One of our church members found what he thought was a sturdy grapevine at the cemetery and suggested the boys swing on it. He helped Hal swing and then backed up as Daryl took a turn. Daryl swung into the air and then slammed into the ground when the vine snapped, landing hard on his back. He was ok but didn’t believe it. He walked around gingerly and moaned about his back for some time.

By that evening, however, he had found sufficient distraction from his back. At the hotel, he ran across the courtyard to fetch his swimsuit and tripped, severely skinning his knee. Sorry, kid, we can’t let you in the pool.

He was devastated. Hal was already dressed in his swimsuit so Poppy prepared to take him to the pool. A dark cloud descended over Daryl’s face. He looked as though the world would never be right again.

Jane sat down beside him and wrapped him in a hug. She began to talk softly to him, rubbing his arms and leaning her face in close to his. I expected him to shrug her off like he normally would, but instead he listened. She said, “I know how you feel. I really do. I wanted to go swimming but I can’t either.”

“Yes you can,” he responded. “Nothing is stopping you.”

“Yes it is,” she said. “My period started and so now I can’t go swimming. We are in the same boat. Maybe we can watch some TV instead.”

I had a hard time imagining a nine year old boy being comforted by a story of menstrual distress, but to my great surprise, he cheered up immediately. He scrambled onto the bed across from the TV and waited for his sister to turn it on.

Small wonders. I can’t believe she shared that information and I can’t believe the tactic worked. Small wonders, indeed.