Greetings from Carrboro,
Someone taught me that the key is to sing it fast. To get that first word out in a hurry. So I’d practice once before I called. Her voice was always full of feigned surprise, as if her caller ID was some kind of illicit secret. As if I hadn’t followed through with this awkward filial ritual annually for 20+ years. And as if she wasn’t sitting at the kitchen table, still in her slippers, waiting for me to call. So standing in the middle of the empty restaurant, I would break into my best version of Happy Birthday on cue, clumsily morphing “Mom” into a sloppy, two-syllable word.
Today is her 85th birthday. But there will be no phone call today. No beleaguered song. You see, my mom died a month ago.
I was the youngest of her three children. And of the children, I most resembled my father. Blonde hair. Blue eyes. Just over 6 feet tall. Check, check, and check. Mom was dark haired and, oh, 5 feet tall when she stood up straight. She would joke if she hadn’t been at my birth, she’d wonder if I was really her son. “I had nothing to do with this one,” would be her life-long, laughing refrain.
Forty years later, I still look like my dad. Mostly. But it’s my mother’s fingerprints that are all over my life. For good and for bad. There’s our ferocious commitment and the misplaced self-denial. The laughter and the touchy, wounded pride. The love of gardening and a certain enduring loneliness. All these things intricately woven, carefully knitted over the arc of our lives together. It is hard knowing that I can’t tease out just one of those threads without unravelling the whole cloth. But I get it: life’s a package deal. And I can’t help but feel that intricate weave every day working at the restaurant. The warp and weft. That troubling fear that I’m never quite good enough. But the unwavering resolve to figure that out.
And then there is both of our absolute love of a great meal. The profound pleasure of delicious food and the joy of good company. The glimmer in someone’s eyes when they sit down at the table. The smelling and tasting. The preparation and anticipation and desire. Every single thing. In so many ways I know that it was my mother’s well-placed breadcrumbs that led me to open Acme. To create this restaurant. It was her southern-ness. Her deep love of people. Her drive. And in the way she confidently cooked, measuring salt in the palm of her hand.
So, tonight I will give thanks. And raise a glass in her honor. But in spite of my mom’s inveterate predilection for a Stoli martini, I think I’ll have Champagne.
Well, that’s all the news from Carrboro. The staff at Acme look forward to serving you soon.
The Staff at Acme
Reservations: 919 929 2263 or online
Louise Hobson Callaghan
November 29, 1933 – October 30, 2018