I sat in my favorite seaside restaurant enjoying a platter of fried catfish and hush puppies. The food was delicious but I had to hold back the tears as my husband and I adjusted to a “table for two” instead of a “table for three”, now that our son was away in college. I thought I would burst out crying when the hostess asked me, “How many for dinner?” I wanted to stop and tell her all about my wonderful son who used to come with us. I can still feel my husband rolling his eyes behind me.
As I enjoyed the food in the unusual quietness of our table, I suddenly remembered why I always liked to order the catfish. It was a comforting image from my own childhood. My grandparents had a riverhouse on the Mississippi River, and each summer we would go there when we were young. The boys went fishing in the early morning, and by the evening my grandmother would fry up a large batch of catfish – or chicken if the catch wasn’t too good that day. The adults would gather ’round the back porch cleaning the fish and swapping stories, while I was more happy to meander along the dirt roads or sit on the dock watching the sunset and dangling my toes in the water. It is in those very tangible memories from my childhood that I still hold to today. It guides me home like a beacon. Whether it is the warm smells of a kitchen, a favorite childhood dog, or spending lazy days in a tree house, we are all brought back home in some way to our childhoods. It never truly leaves us.