I stare forward, my back to the din of the room. The warmth in the air from laughter and the fragrant touch of spice enveloped me like the heat around the bread in the oven.
I was home.
I had been for some days now, but the feeling, the reality of what home meant had not really begun to sink in until now. My mothers, I have seven of them, all of them dancing somewhere between seventy and eighty and none of them willing to tell the truth of the number, huddle in like hens every Sunday to cook a feast…for me.
Mama Gene slides her floured hands over my shoulder’s and plants a wet kiss on my face. The smile lines around her eyes disappear within the folds of her weathered face and although I know she is delighted, delighted for me, I am suddenly less excited about the uncertainty of the tomorrows to come.
I turn around and face my other mothers as Mama Gene resumes her baking, and I wonder how long before my seven Hens huddle together in God’s kitchen baking bread for the angels.
They deserve their days on streets of gold. Six of them had buried husbands, all of them much too soon in life, and not a child to count as the proof of their unions. But mother Gene, the eldest of the hens had never had a husband and not a child either. None of then had until me.
Mama Genen always told me I was the first man she had ever loved besides her father and I was their adopted son, left wondering in front of the sister’s home almost thirty years ago, lost on my own no more than three, longing for a home that I found in the arms of each one of these sisters.
And now I wonder, as I prepare to take a wife of my own, what will become of my hens, these seven sisters, warn with time, and tragedies all their own, delighted to be together until the end of their days. What will I do when the kitchen is empty and no floured hands leave traces across my shoulders. What did Snow White do when she said her last good-bye to each of her beloved dwarfs as time stole them away to eternity?
A damp tall swats my arm. Mama Kay, the youngest of the sisters leans her hip against the counter and looks down at me from the bridge of her long ebony nose. “What’s on your mind son? You are usually all chatter. You sitting her mooning over that girl of yours?”
Kathy Heller, soon to be Mrs. Kathy Hen, is my beloved fiancee. It amazes me how much she reminds me of Mama Kay. Maybe it is because they share the same name or maybe it is the richness of their skin.
I don’t know, but the realization as I take one last look around the den of my mother Hens hits me like the damp dish towel and I pull Mama Kay into my arms and kiss her cheek until she squirms into a fuss, swatting me away and laughter erupts in the already noisy kitchen.
My Kathy, my soon to be Mrs. Hen is just like each and every one of my mothers, some spark of them wrapped up in her and the realization makes me long for home.