In The Opposite of Loneliness Marina Keegan describes her complex relations with grain in an essay titled “Against the Grain”. I wanted to pick one quote, as I usually do, but cannot separate the two that follow. People have said a lot about the gluten-free trend, but there are those for whom it is not trend diet, it is a way of life that was thrust upon them. It is the result of Celiac Disease. While she tried not to worry too much about it, her mother had an entirely different perspective, one that any mother could relate to.
This first excerpt is from the beginning of the essay:
I slipped into malnourishment and was carried home from appointment after appointment to high chairs strewn with Cheerios, Saltines, and other plain poisons. My mother, devoid of expert answers, sought her own in the stacks of Boston’s best libraries. She pored over pages and symptoms and Latinate labels until she found an answer under the alphabet’s third letter. “Test her,” she demanded to the mob of white coats. They did. She was right. And at eighteen months, I ate my first rice cake.
Later in the essay, she relates the experience of watching a video of her first birthday party with her mother:
Soon the lights dim and my mother walks in—a younger, longer-haired mother with full cheeks and bright eyes. Illuminating her face and the tiny dining room is a glorious birthday cake with flaming Mickey Mouse candles. “Happy birthday to you,” they sing. “Happy birthday to you.” But my real-life mother, my older, thinner mother, had her hand clutched over her mouth, glassy-eyed and fixed on the screen. “I’m poisoning you,” she whispered, shaking her head. “I’m poisoning you, Marina. I’m poisoning you.” I went to the VCR and turned off the footage.
There are so many guilts and fears about being a mother. I can’t imagine having the late realization that simple things were poisoning my child and that I was the one giving it to them. It’s in this portion of essay of the essay where it becomes obvious to Keegan just why her mother had been overbearingly paranoid about every spec of grain after. The whole essay is beautiful, as is the book. I hope you read the rest one day.