My first memory is of a dark room, me standing in a crib crying.
My second memory is of me in an oxygen tent because of an asthma attack.
My third memory is of getting beaten with a rubber hose, a foster mother more focused on ironing while watching Dark Shadows on television than caring for my needs, and me dunking grilled cheese sandwiches in
tomato soup. All of these memories happened in the first five years of my life; and the grilled cheese sandwich is the only one I’m glad I remember.
It’s my first pleasant memory; and the one that turned into a pleasant reality lasting well into my 50’s. Back then, cheese became my comfort food long before I even knew what comfort food was. Its melted gooey texture filled me with more warmth than the mother who gave birth to me and left me in the hospital; more than the foster mother who didn’t show me any affection; and more than the adopted mother who had nothing else left for me after mothering her oldest daughter.
Cheese has always been there. It could never take the place of a sincere hug, or a compliment to let me know that I was worth something. But it filled the empty spaces left by those absences.
In later years, I developed tastes and appreciations for the many different types of cheeses that I used to melt in grilled cheese; shred for salads, or add to casseroles. From American, pepper jack, and mozzarella, to the blue cheese that my father liked,
the Gorgonzola “stinky cheese” that I discovered for a recipe, and the processed cheeses like the pimiento spread in the cooler on long trips, and the Velveeta that became my favorite for grilled cheese. Then during my vegan years between 2012 and 2015, I discovered delicious vegan cheeses that offered good flavor and melted beautifully – the main criteria for a good cheese in my opinion. 🙂
No matter what cheese I ate they offered the warm, filling, comfort that I never received from either of the mothers that came into my life.
I’ve tried, unsuccessfully, on many occasions to give up cheese during my life. While I love it in its many forms, I can’t deny its weight-gaining properties when I eat too
much of it – which I usually do. So, while cheese still offers me a sense of comfort in my middle-age years, I read labels and eat the cheeses that offer a little less fat and a little less salt.
And I work on forgiving my past, while I focus on the hugs, kisses, and I-love-you’s that I’m fortunate to have these days.