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September 23, 2019 by The Citron Review

by Joanne Nelson


Mayonnaise, cream cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, Thai peanut sauce. My visiting, hungry daughter checks expiration dates and exhales patience. One hand holds the refrigerator door open and she bends at the waist to reach for each jar, long hair falling over her shoulder. From my seat at the kitchen counter, I analyze each item ahead of her hand, calculating length of time since purchase.

This is how it begins. Soon the phrase, “And you should see what I found in her refrigerator…” will pepper her conversation with friends.

My mother’s refrigerator, at the end of her independence, contained, among other things: a saucepan of chicken noodle soup—small moons of chicken fat floating in the thin broth; plastic containers of gray-brown fuzziness; and several half-cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. I tossed and tossed into white Hefty bags which I stacked next to the over-full garbage bin at the end of her driveway. No one witnessed the hunched muscles of my shoulders or the building tension in my face as I worked. But if my mother could escape her nursing home, could escape her failing self, I think she’d recognize this look. Even be able to imitate it; I wore it so often in her presence.

The handle of my grandmother’s Philco was a hard pull before the loud, sticky door seal released to reveal half-eaten apple pie, gravy-soaked roast beef on a chipped flower rimmed plate, and drying, unwrapped cheese on yet another chipped plate. Every Sunday her small home filled with luscious smells and flavors, savory pies and meats. I ate and overate but avoided any leftovers if I visited during the week, all those exposed leftovers growing more harmful with each passing day. Perhaps I was too cautious though—Grandma cooked for herself well into her nineties. She lived until my daughter grew in me, until I could reach into the refrigerator of my own home and bring out apples extra flavorful for having been kept cold and unsliced.

I remember the comforting edge of those broken plates, can see the dividing line where the border of the aging yellow/orange cheese faded to softness—where a thin paring knife could cut away anything unpleasant and save the rest for another time. I hear her say, whatever I do to my mother I’ll get back three-fold.

I hear her say it again as I watch my girl, now so grown, so beautiful, turn from the refrigerator, jar in hand, like a punctuation mark of continuance or ending.


Joanne Nelson is the author of the memoir, This is How We Leave forthcoming from Vine Leaves Press. Her writing appears in literary journals such as Brevity, Midwestern Gothic, the museum of americana, Consequence, and Redivider. Nelson is a contributor to Lake Effect on 89.7 WUWM, her NPR affiliate based in Wisconsin. She lives in Hartland, Wisconsin, where she develops and leads community programs, maintains a psychotherapy practice, and adjuncts. More information is at wakeupthewriterwithin.com



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🍋10th Anniversary

Fall 2019 IssueSeptember 23rd, 2019
Cheers to 10 great years!

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Tisha Marie Reichle-Aguilera's "Swiriling Debris" is in our Fall 2019 Issue. Always look both ways! https://citronreview.com/2019/09/23/swirling-debris/ #amreading #microfiction
Prolific flash writer, editor and writing teacher Riham Adly's "The Princess of Fantasistan" bubbles in our Fall 2019 issue! https://citronreview.com/2019/09/23/the-princess-of-fantasistan/ Riham was also shortlisted for the 2018 Arabic Literature (in English) Translation Prize. #amreading #flashfiction
Joanne Nelson, author of forthcoming memoir This is How We Leave (@vine_leaves_press) is sharing her "Leftovers" with us. Let's peak inside the fridge! https://citronreview.com/2019/09/23/leftovers/ #amreading #fall2019
Oregon Book Award recipient, Willa Schneberg's new poem "Shelley's Heart" is in our new Fall 2019 issue. She's published five volumes of poetry including Rending the Garment from Mudfish Books. @literaryarts #amreading #fall2019
Delight in fresh-squeezed brief literature at citronreview.com! Our Fall 2019 Issue features this litany of remarkable voices: Willa Schneberg, Jennifer Woodworth, Rachel Andoga, Marissa Hoffman, Joanne Nelson, JK Rogers, Melissa Knox, Riham Adly, Eleanor Levine, Ronald Hartley, Timothy Reilly, Tisha Marie Reichle-Aguilera, Mary F. Morris, Frances Gapper #amreading #fall2019 #citronstories
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