(c) Somebody’s Always Hungry, 2011
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an excerpt from Large - food and loathing in Los Angeles -- In Large so far, Vaughn Provencher, who started cooking at four years old (pulled up an upside- down bucket to the stove and was great from then on), Vaughn had a problem fitting in. Here , in his teens at his first job, he has just been fired for making a beautiful and luscious mess of an ice cream float by the uptight manager at Friendly's who wanted it done the store’s way or no way. Vaughn's mother has to drive down and pick him up. -- LARGE  My mom didn’t start the car. Her hair was frozen in its permanently shocked mode. I couldn’t look at her. “Vaughn,” she said, finally. “C’mon, Mom,” I said, looking out the window. She looked at me with a resolution. Like she’d come to this planet just to tell me this one thing. I had to glance at her. “Remember that Brazilian skating team? The ones that won the Bronze?” I looked at her vacantly. What? “1984, the Winter Olympics. Remember you watched that with me?” “Don’t tell anyone that, Mom. I just liked the outfits,” I said, appalled at my former self. “Remember how hard they tried, they came from like 16th place in the world and finally won the Bronze, and the girl had been trying like all her life to place at the Olympics, and this was their last year skating together because her partner had like –” “– Nut cancer –” I begrudgingly filled in. It all flooded back to me. “Yeah, cancer, and in their last performance they scored just enough points to push the Russians out of the way, and they won --” “Last place,” I filled in. “The Bronze,” she nodded. I stared at her. Remembering the weeks on the living room rug eating a personalized trail mix I had concocted involving caramel and Kix cereal, and watching with her when I had just turned eight. “I just remember that look on her face, when they finished their routine and the numbers came up and they stood out in the middle of the ice crying and hugging each other as people threw flowers in –” “You get a lot of flowers for cancer –” I interjected. “And then when they were interviewed right off the ice after they got their medal, remember that look in her eyes, she was exhilarated, on top of the world, but remember how we talked about that shadow?” She had an uncanny eye for twenty year-old details. “What shadow?” “That her exhilaration was just on the boundary of despair. There was a shadow right next to the joy.” I tried to be smart. “Because she didn’t win the gold?” “She never expected to win the gold, it wasn’t about the winning. It was about reaching her life’s dream and being at the very top and while she was there, in the midst of it, at the very top, she was thrilled, but also she could see that with the victory came the end of that dream.” I stared at the cheerful “Friendly’s” sign reflected in a sidewalk sprinkler puddle. Sparkling in the night. Oh my God, was Friendly’s my Bronze? She rubbed a hand on her cheek, like she always did, and then touched my ear. “When you were little, you would always take a nap with me and I would watch you fall asleep, and you always wanted me to have my hand on your tummy, and my hand was huge, it would cover your whole torso, and then as the years went by, my hand was shrinking, but I still kept it there and watched you sleep as long as I could, even past five years old, because you wanted my hand there and I knew you’d outgrow it.” I remembered that. It sounded kinda nice. “You can still do that if you want,” I looked at her. She smiled. “Is this going to connect in any weird way? You don’t want me to get bigger, but you want me to start figure skating?” I asked, confused. She touched my ice cream sticky arm. “I want you to love it like it’s going to go away. I knew you would get older and go away. I realized it one day when my hand wasn’t so big across your stomach. I had the same feeling the Brazilian girl did. I didn’t get any medals. But I knew I would have the most incredible experience raising you four kids, and I gave myself totally to taking care of and loving you four.”“Except for Dan,” I said. “I gave everything, my whole heart, even parts I didn’t know I had, I gave it all to you, even when I realized that nap time that I wasn’t going to get any of it back. I was, in fact, going to have to teach you how to take all that love and go off somewhere, saying goodbye. You’ll see what it’s like when you become a mother. Or whatever it is you people become.” I closed my eyes. “Mom. I’m not a homo. I just got fired. I’ll probably be living with you for years, just like Disappointment Dan.” She pinched me. “Ow!” “Love yourself like that, Vaughn. You have this immensity in you, this gift is large. You know what you’re doing, since you were four years old, on that bucket. Why do you think I didn’t stop you – in fact, handed you the sharp knives? You have to love it like it’s going to leave you, and gloriously wave at it as it goes. I don’t know much, but it’s the only thing I know in my guts.” I thought about it for a moment. “What happened to the Brazilian chick?” “Who knows? Teaching skating or cutting ice sculptures or whatever those people do. But she had her Bronze medal. You’ll have that.” “Mom, I’m not anywhere. We’re in a parking lot.” “You’re moving faster than you think. Just remember what I said.” She turned the key in the ignition. “But then what do I get. If you do all that, and you end up with nothing anyway?” “You get all the glory. Of all those moments where you were being true to your core,” she said, and the spirit in her eyes danced out at me right on the vinyl seat covers. I’d never seen her look like this, but then I never paid much attention to her since she was my mother, not a human being. “Eat yourself all the way to the core, Vaughn, and throw it out the car window when you’re speeding on your way –” she put the car into gear, still looking at me with that gleeful look. “Because the world deserves you.” She checked her mirrors, seeing the manager Squirrel on his way out, locking up. She rolled down my window, while I looked at her with fear. “I don’t get to keep you on my wall, but you are a walking monument to believing in true love, and I get to see you out there in the free world and I get to have all that glory that is your path, cause I got to steep you in yourself for eighteen long years before releasing you, fully qualified, into the wilderness. My love is worth it, and you’re worth it.” She leaned across me, head out of my window, yelling at the manager. “Hey, FUCK YOU!!”She waved her middle finger out the window as the Squirrel and I both froze in place. “I’m his mother! Fuck you!!” I internally melted down the interior of the car as she lurched the car away, looking at me and grinning with maternity. “You’re made of gold, Vaughn. Because I gave you my whole heart, and you’re full with it. Go act like it.”
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