Addie ate all-natural, organic everything. What she didn’t grow in her garden, she bought at the farmer’s market. Her eggs came from the chickens she kept in her backyard. Every year, she bought an entire cow from the farmer a few towns over, and filled her deep-freezer with grass-fed meat to feed her family with.
And yet here she was, in the grocery store, standing in front of the snack foods shelf and staring at an enormous jar of cheeze balls.
Her mother taught her to appreciate real food. She made sure to feed the family home-cooked meals, every night. Addie didn’t see a frozen meal till she reached college. Her mother taught her how to grow squash in her yard, how to can and preserve and pickle. Addie thought of her mom every time she took a loaf of banana bread out of the oven, made from her mom’s secret recipe, or pulled a jar of her mother’s preserves off the shelf. Even though her mom was getting older, every year she showed up at Addie’s house with half her suitcase packed full of little glass jars.
Her father taught her to appreciate cheeze balls. He weeded the garden, and plucked chickens, and canned tomatoes. But he also loved cheeze balls. He and Addie would sit at the worn table together, munching on his favorite snack and licking every last bit of the radioactively-bright orange dust off their fingers. Her mother would stand in the kitchen, muttering about the detested treats.
“I mean, cheeze balls? They can’t even call them cheese balls because there’s not actually any cheese in there. Do you even know what you’re eating?” she’d say, making mozzarella from the goats she kept. “This is cheese. Look at this color. See? This is what cheese actually looks like.”
Addie would try to hide her giggles as her father snuck up on her mother, wrapping one arm around her waist and trying to feed her a cheeze ball with the other. She would protest and squirm and inevitably, give up and eat the cheeze ball, complaining all the while, but Addie could swear she saw the hint of a smile on her mother’s face once her father released her.
Even once Addie left for college, her dad would send her cheeze balls in the mail. Care packages arrived with homemade cookies, and hand-knitted socks, and that plastic container full of processed, chemical-cheesy goodness.
Until the day she got the phone call from her mom. Heart attack. Her father was gone before she made it home.
Addie hadn’t touched a cheeze ball since. It just didn’t seem right to eat them without her dad by her side. But here they were, the familiar tub sitting innocently on the shelf next to the pretzels and the whole-grain crackers.
She looked down the aisle, to where her son is playing with a toy airplane, quietly carrying on a one-person conversation between air traffic control and pilot, preparing to land on a row of cereal boxes. He’s seven, and never knew his grandad. He never got to learn how to set up the train around the Christmas tree, or ride on grandad’s shoulders and feel a million feet tall. He never sat at that dining room table licking fake cheese dust off his fingers.
But maybe it’s time for him to know, she thought, reaching out for the cheeze balls with a smile.
you can learn more about my 31 days series right here. let’s all thank Megan Eccles for this word and for turning me into a fiction writer. prompt me by tweeting a word @hannahboning or dropping it in the comments.