Deposition Stew

Deposition Stew

From Chicken Soup for the Grandma's Soul

Deposition Stew

In the man whose childhood has know caresses and kindness, there is always a fibre of memory that can be touched to gentle issues.

George Eliot

The first time I saw her she was just a fat lady who served bread and soup at the shelter.

I didn’t eat there all the time. Sometimes when Momma wasn’t too bad, she was able to work and we had our own food. Now, don’t feel bad for me and start saying things like “poor girl.” I hate that. And don’t start assuming that Momma is a bad person. I hate that more.

It’s not her fault that Daddy lost his job and left town looking for work, never to come back. And it’s not her fault she got sick right after she started working at the Food Lion down the road. People don’t like it when a cashier coughs on their produce, so Mr. Ranier had to let her go. He said he would hire her back if she got rid of that cough. She was reliable, she never came in late and she never took a sick day. Maybe she should have. Maybe if she saw a doctor before things got too bad she might have gotten better.

“I have to work,” she’d say, brushing off my worries as if they didn’t count for anything.

Sometimes she knew a job wouldn’t last. Like the time she took a position as a secretary for a lawyer downtown. Momma couldn’t type and she couldn’t spell, but she tried her best. When that man saw the deposition she worked on all week, he turned all red and fired her on the spot.

“That’s okay, baby,” Momma said. “I got paid, and I’ll make some chicken and dumplings. We’ll have a feast.”

After that, whenever she got a good-size check, Momma would make some “deposition stew.” That’s what she called chicken and dumplings from then on. It was our secret recipe, and we always laughed when we ate it.

We hadn’t had many reasons to laugh the first time that fat lady came to work at the shelter. She seemed nice enough though, until she started asking questions.

“How old are you, little girl?”

“I ain’t little,” I told her. “I’m five, and I’m big for my age.”

“Yes, you are,” she agreed, taking a step back to get a better look at me. “I would have guessed you were at least six,” she told me, trying to get back on my good side.

I didn’t trust her, but Momma said she was okay, just talking to pass the time, and I should be respectful from now on. After that, I didn’t give the fat lady any lip. I didn’t want her to think Momma didn’t raise me right.

Momma took a bad turn soon after that; she got too sick to work. We moved into a homeless shelter and took all our meals at one soup kitchen or another. I heard someone telling her she’d better make plans for me. “Someone better be ready to take over soon,” he said.

I didn’t like that kind of talk.

“I make my own plans,” I told Momma. “And my plans have me staying with you.”

“That’s what I want too, baby,” she said. “And don’t you ever forget that if anything bad happens, I’ll always be with you, no matter where you go.”

“And we’ll have ‘deposition stew,’” I laughed, remembering the wonderful smell of her chicken and gravy filling our old apartment.

“Deposition stew and homemade bread,” she told me, giving me a hug so tight I could hardly breathe.

Then she died.

“Cold as ice” is what the paramedic said when they loaded her in the ambulance. I never saw her again. By the time anyone thought about me, I was long gone.

I wandered from shelter to shelter for a day or two, attaching myself to a crowd so no one would notice I was alone. I got by okay until I went into the place where the fat lady worked.

“Where’s your momma?” she asked.

“She’s not here tonight.”

“I can see that. Where is she?”

“Can I please have some of that soup?” I asked, trying hard to remember to be respectful.

She poured a bowl, putting a big hunk of bread next to it before sitting me down for a long talk. “Now where is your momma? I know she wouldn’t want you in here all alone.”

“She’s right here with me,” I spit back at her. “Right by my side forever, just like she promised!”

“Is she now?” the lady asked, understanding and softening her demeanor. She had heard Momma’s cough and knew she wasn’t doing well. “Who will look after you now?”

“I’m not sure,” I told her. “I haven’t got it all figured out yet.”

“Maybe I can help,” she whispered. “You sit here and eat your soup, and I’ll see what I can do.”

A short time later, another lady, not quite as fat but otherwise looking a lot like her, came walking into the shelter offering to take me home. Seems she took in foster kids and just happened to have space for one more.

It took me a while to sort it all out, but the fat lady is momma to the one that I call Mom these days. I can’t say Momma to her . . . that name belongs to my real momma, but she’s okay with that.

“Call me whatever you like,” she said, “just don’t call me late for dinner.”

That’s funny, the way she puts it.

Tomorrow the fat lady is coming for dinner along with the rest of the family. Now I have a foster sister, two foster brothers and some cousins coming in from out of town. All that and a nice fat lady for a grandma. I’m pretty sure Momma will be watching, and she’ll laugh along with us when my new mom and I cook up some deposition stew for everyone.

“Here Grandma, taste this,” I’ll say.

Bobbi Carducci

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