Writing Childhood Memories

Loved teaching “Food and Faith” at St. Paul and St. Andrew’s last Sunday.

I love that childhood memories are treasure troves, little magical boxes full of light. Memories point our way. Remembering where I come from reminds me of where I am going and who I am.

One exercise in my workshop was to write about a childhood memory of food that brought you closer to your family. I wrote about my Norwegian grandmother’s Christmas lunches. The open-faced sandwiches. The mutton, head cheese, slim-sliced hard-boiled eggs. The meatballs. The herring. It was the one day a year we all sat down to eat on Grandma’s enclosed porch together.

In the workshop, Barbara wrote about her father teaching her to count by planting seeds in the garden. Memories are like shoots of green. The memories are the parts of the plant that are still showing. The memories lead to an ancestry that lies buried deep in the soil, connecting us to relatives who are long gone.

Writing down the memories of family meals or family gardens takes you back and takes you deep — into the heat of a summer garden in Pennsylvania or the  bright light of Christmas in Chicago.

Writing down your memories reminds you of where you come from, who you are. Writing takes you home.

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Sacred Chow

At lunch time, the author and pastor Donna Schaper spoke about creating community and communion through food. She was awesome.

The discussion reminded me of last summer when I taught the the adult spiritual study, “Food & Faith” in the schools of mission at Western Connecticut State University and at Dillard University in New Orleans. I loved hearing people’s rich stories of food memories.

One older woman remembered being on the farm, sitting at a picnic table with relatives of many ages after a barn raising. Food was definitely both a fueling and a feasting. Donna wrote about this kind of communion in her book, “Sacred Chow.”

Food has the capacity to bring us together. But there is also, as Donna mentioned, a divisiveness or a righteousness when we discuss food. We’re right about the way we eat and others aren’t.

There are small, good, spiritual things we can do with food, including writing about food, teaching about food and faith, saying grace, opting out of corporate food manufacturers’ offerings, choosing farmstand foods. We can also remember our childhood dinner tables.

When I was a kid, we took the phone off the hook. All seven of us ate dinner together in the dining room every night. We argued, we discussed the day, we ate. I’m going home to get that party started right now.

Donna Schaper spoke as part of Raising Women’s Voices, workshops on women and health offered by the Interchurch Center. Interesting that the event came on the heels of the healthcare legislation.

Schools of Christian Mission are dynamic adult learning opportunities offered in thousands of venues usually in the summer for United Methodist Women and their friends.