The Potato Masher
written by: Maryanne Frederick
I always volunteer to make the
Holiday mashed potatoes.
While the men are drinking
And the women are catty,
I am peeling and chopping
My way through the enmity
That is our family gathering.
“Oh, let me,” I beg
Trying to sound helpful.
Truth is, I’m hoping to hide.
“Did you hear that, Sis?
Aunt Joan thinks you’re too
Skinny to get a man!”
If forced to answer,
I stick by my standby,
“What? I am in the kitchen!”
And whack the knife on the cutting board
As if to prove it.
It calms me.
“Your potatoes are white as snow.”
Says grandma as she sneaks in to
Pour from a bottle into her cup.
“I make sure to cut all the eyes out.”
I say gritting my teeth into a smile.
“Don’t you worry, dear, there are lots of
Men who like flat chested women.”
I see my water is boiling and I take care to
Drop each potato chunk in individually,
Naming them as I go.
“Come talk with us.”
Sounds the hopeful voice
Of my uncle as he has run out
Of an audience.
“Oh, I have to make sure this
Doesn’t boil over.”
I say, trying to sound dutiful.
I can hear them going at it
In the abysmal room beyond.
I scoop up the peelings in my bare hands
And throw them away.
I hate the feeling of the raw,
Slimy mess against my thin skin.
So quickly, I wash my hands of it
Hoping that’s enough.
Too soon, the potatoes are done.
As I drain the water, the steam
Bathes my face and I am renewed.
Ready to mash and mix and to present
My self and the potatoes
To the family for dinner.
We are ready to be swallowed whole
Without a thought
Except for what we are missing.
No chives? No husband? Needs salt.
I pretend not to listen.
It calms me.
Best day ever? Finding a comfortable boulder near a forest stream where she can write to her heart’s content. Of course, there would also be a hammock nearby, maybe a canoe... and Diet Pepsi. Must have Diet Pepsi.
Maryanne earned her bachelor's degree from the University of Illinois and her master's degree from Arizona State University.