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  • Cabbage came in this week's food co-op crate. It was a part of the package deal of other fruits and veggies. Immediately, the cabbage registered as a cooking conundrum as it sat peeking out from beneath the tastier, more impressive fruits and vegetables. Definitely not my first choice in the line-up. It's such a strange little thing. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the cabbage begin to stare me down from its gray plastic box as I mindlessly drove home from the Friday food pick-up. One of those drives where you think about everything, but nothing really, all at once. Still the question remained, "What should one do with a big head of cabbage? What would Meme do?" I wanted to ask her.
    I thought of all the things my grandmother could wield with cabbage. I remembered the sour coleslaw we perfected over many different variations. I still have the recipe card that reads "Tipper and Meme's Sour Slaw" written in her handwritting. The sauerkraut, cooked cabbage, stewed cabbage, kraut and dumplings. She was the perfecter of the Tried-and-True recipe, but the old ways did not sound appealing to me. My perceived inexperience compared to her mastery left me feeling too insecure to attempt a risky move with the cabbage.
    Thoughts tossed through my mind and feelings frantically ricochetted through my heart. When I arrived home, I put my car in park and readied myself to take the key out of the ignition. That's when I just lost it. I simply started to cry.
    It really wasn’t about the cabbage.
    I just wanted to go back.
    I wanted to go home and couldn't.

    My heart has been a vagabond. Strangely, as a grown woman with a home of my own, her apartment was the only place that I could rest and feel safe. She watered bones that worry had dried. I would arrive at her apartment, several kids in tow, and just fall asleep on her couch. I remember her covering me with her brown and orange crocheted afghan that always seemed to be on hand. I would drift off to sleep to the sounds of her playing with my children on the floor or eating ice cream on the back porch. These are the last of the memories I have of her when she was still able to care for herself and live on her own. Before these, there were many, many more of a young girl wrapped in love and care.

    Since her death, the process of grief has had many flavors for me. Memories swirl around on my tongue. Some bitter, sweet, sour, salty. Still, I haven't been able to swallow the reality of this loss. I’ve wondered how long it will take, when will I get on with it. But that's the thing about death, you can't go back to where you were and you wonder how long you have left to journey through valleys of intense longing and grief.
    The key I still have on my key ring won’t unlock her front door anymore.

    Funny how an unconsidered, humble thing can pull the gravity right out from under you. Instead of floating, you fall. Flat on my back, I was listening.
    Not to do an old thing with the cabbage, although wonderful, I should move on to a new thing with the cabbage. The other fruits and veggies could just wait. Perhaps I wanted to let her know that I was always listening from the sidelines of her kitchen.
    So I did a new thing with the cabbage. I sliced it apart, into thin wedges on parchment paper.
    Each wedge glistened with the olive oil I had slathered onto the skin. Then, I sprayed each of the wedges with lemon juice. A sprinkling of salt and pepper came next. Then on a whim, I finely diced some of the lemon peel and sprinkled like yellow confetti on top.
    The cabbage roasted at 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
    I'm not familiar with all the ways of cooking unostentatious cabbage. Uncertainty lent itself to continued monitoring through the oven window.
    I asked out loud, “How will I know it’s done?”
    “You will just know” I heard her say.
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