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I cooked yesterday, and cried: my sister and one brother were here to sort through the remainder of my parents’ things,  mostly breakables and two boxes of my father’s clothes, which my oldest son had been storing at the house he and his wife had been renting for the last two years. A small collection of old furniture had to be decided about and divvied out(my father’s fiancee kept pieces she liked: he stipulated in his will that she had the right of usage until she died: but I know that we probably never will have what remains in her house.. we had an acrimonious split when she decided to inter my father’s ashes without including us, his children, in the ceremony). Unexpected and deeply painful, but not the topic of this post.

This son of mine and his wife have given up rent, quit their jobs, packed up their entire household: the contents of a starter home, sold her car and his scooter, dropped off boxes of books-to-keep here, sent many more boxes of books off to charity and friends. On Thursday their house must be vacated: and within 3 weeks I will say goodbye to my son for at least a year, but probably much much longer. They are off to teach English in China: in Szechuan province: “The foodie region in China” my daughter-in-law assured me! She has started a blog too about their adventure: read it here.http://goodbyetoallthis.com

So yesterday was a day of goodbyes: goodbye to my father and mother in the way only sorting through leftover things can effect. It was his clothes more than anything else which made me cry. I imagined that I could smell him still in jackets which had not been dry-cleaned…. so I left my sister and brother to it and pottered around in the kitchen, sipping wine, chatting to my sister-in-law and later to my younger son and his girlfriend, shaking up salad dressing, tossing green beans in olive oil, letting my niece and godchild help me chop ingredients for a big green salad.

My kitchen hummed with reminiscences: a forgotten porcelain figurine, a full set of kitchen plates we used to eat off as kids.. I made a Spanish rice salad, one of my mother’s specialities and a dish which my father loved.

Around the table later, after my sister and brother had said goodbye to my oldest son (he left to continue packing) we talked and ate and remembered and celebrated our connection which at best is rich and nourishing, but has been tenuous and strained in the past: your typical family where dynamics rarely change even as people grow older. My oldest brother chose not to come, and my husband is in Azerbaijan on tour with the Johannesburg Philharmonic: not a very full table: only six of us and a very lively 7 year old!

This morning, clearing up and thinking about yesterday, I was reminded of how sharing food and eating makes saying goodbye into an important ritual, and how deeply comforting it is when I am in my kitchen, making food for people I love.