Fennel and a Birthday

I chose the cart with the lunky wheel, per usual. Or maybe that’s the only kind of cart. My list seemed endless and my time seemed the opposite. I didn’t have time to waste. But as I bagged up a few gorgeous bell peppers, I caught sight of a bulb of fennel.

I stood in the produce aisle, riveted by the leafy green stalks.

I talked to myself, weighing the benefits of purchasing a veggie for which I had no immediate need nor legitimate use, which is usually what I do in the candy aisle. I selected a nice, green bulb and then I texted my mom.

“Just bought a bulb of fennel, for no other reason but nostalgia.”

She replied: “oh! Your son’s first Thanksgiving.”

Just a day earlier, my youngest child celebrated a birthday, and I was in full-on reminisce mode. Everything reminded me of the day he was born. The way the trees slapped against a grey sky, Halloween candy wrappers strewn in revelry and forgotten, even the empty box in the garage we had recently used for a house project. It was labeled: BIRTH KIT.

The birth kit contained home birth supplies: gauze pads, sheets, suction bulb, gloves…the usual. We had moved into our home just ten days before he was born, and so my priorities had been getting our daughters settled, unpacking the kitchen, and having the birth supplies ready to go.

Three weeks after his birth, my parents arrived for a visit, and to celebrate Thanksgiving. We prepared turkey breast stuffed with fennel. At the time, we made trips to three different stores for a breast we could butterfly and fennel.

It was just a stalky veggie with delicate wispy fronds dancing in the refrigerated mist of the supermarket. But it was a me worry: tangible, textural, fragrant and veiny. It was a promise of something delicious, and a reminder of something spectacular. It’s still in my kitchen. I’m thinking of roasting it with some carrots and oarmesan. Or maybe I’ll just stare at it and remember when my son was a baby and the people who love him most surrounded him with laughter.

Our memories are wrapped with the smells and tastes that accompanied their creation.