“I asked you to get real maple syrup,” she said.
“The fuck you talkin’ about?” I asked. “I got real syrup. It’s right there. See the bottle shaped like a lady?”
“I see it,” she said. “It’s okay, but it’s not real maple syrup.”
“There’s a difference?” I asked. “You fuckin’ with me, right? It don’t get no realer than the lady-bottle!”
“I’m talking about the real shit from the tree,” she replied. “Not this processed stuff.”
“Oh. My bad,” I said, trying to mask my wounded pride. “I honestly didn’t know. Must be a Black thing.”
“That’s no excuse,” she said. “Meh. Just squash it.*”
And I squashed it, because she was right. It was no excuse, but it was a valid explanation, though a poorly-worded one lingering in that grey area.
It wasn’t a Black thing; it was a poverty thing.
Growing up in poverty, syrup was an unconventional indicator of how a family was doing financially. Strange, I know, but true. Another surprising thing about urban-American poverty; even when faced with syrup-sandwiches-and-sleep for dinner, we sometimes had the audacity of being picky.
Sometimes eating nothing was preferable to eating crap (which I’m just now understanding, is a relative term).
I’d wake up on a Saturday to the heavenly scent of pancakes only to find they were drowned in the sticky muck of something in a non-lady-shaped bottle with the word “Syrup” labeled in plain black-n-white font.
I’d take one look and be like, “God bless you for trying, mom. You did your best. Why don’t you just take a break and let me throw these pancakes in the garbage for you?” That obviously never went over well, but that’s another story.
But occasionally, Saturday pancakes were accompanied by the creamy, artificial goodness of the lady-shaped-bottle, alerting us to two things; (1) breakfast was going to be delicious, and (2) one of the parents had a come-up **, which meant there were many more delicious things in the pantry besides lady-shaped-syrup-bottles.
It’s funny for a forty-something male to not know the difference between real maple syrup and processed, lady-shaped-bottle syrup. I know this. But when I bought that crap, I was speaking a love language to my beloved that only I understood. My bad. It’s fun learning new things.
crisp, grey morning sky
sunshine drizzles her sweetness
memories of you
I know I said I was taking a break from prompts to work on a passion project that I’m almost done with, but to quote Pacino as Michael Corleone:
*squash it – urban slang, to abandon the conversation, agree to disagree, and move on to more positive topics.
**come-up – urban slang, an unexpected windfall, bargain, success, or other positive outcome benefitting a person or a group of people.
(Editor’s note: Much like Mrs. Butterworth’s isn’t “real” maple syrup, I’m aware that this post isn’t a “pure” Haibun. But y’all know ya’ boy likes to stir the pot a bit, so let’s just squash it. 🙂 We good, fam?)