Shepherd’s Pie

Twice I’ve had shepherd’s pie.  
The first time I was maybe three, 
probably two, 
back when children graduated
from high chairs much earlier and 
rode bikes with no helmets. 
Back when I stood in the middle 
of the bench car seat holding onto 
daddy’s shoulder while he drove,
his extended arm my only
seat belt. 

The pie was mother's attempt to
make something special 
on a meager grocery budget. 

Once,
when we were down to our last mason jar 
of green beans, 
my sister and I, toddlers, 
oblivious, 
mom made the green beans, 
seasoned them as if part of a grand meal, 
set the table, 
poured the tea, 
put the beans in a glass serving dish 
          (a cookpot on the table would never do), 
lifted the dish from the counter, 
and then, 
hands wet, 
the glass slipped, 
and the green beans exploded on the kitchen floor, 
spiced with shards too splintered to remove.  
And mom sat down right there
in the middle of the green beans 
and cried. 

The shepherd’s pie happened
around the same time. 
Sixties food wasn’t fancy.  
Grocery stores didn’t stock 
arugula and truffle oil and quinoa. 
Life was more 
meatloaf and mashed potatoes.  But,
shepherd’s pie, it was
all mixed together.  
And was that a pea?
I didn’t like it on sight.  
Dad said, “you eat 
what your mother prepares.” 
I tried and gagged. 
My sister and I slumped in our chairs 
and stared at our plates in terror. 
Dad dug in. 
“You will sit here until your plate is clean.” 

Hours passed.  
Still we sat.  
Still dad glared.  
I think we ate it, but I don’t remember.  I just remember
The sitting and the staring and the glaring.  

Years later, dad said, 
“I sure made some mistakes,
and there are some things I wish I could change.  
I would never have 
made you girls stay at that table and 
eat something you didn’t like, for one thing.”  
His 60-year-old self 
was now embarrassed 
by his 23-year-old choices.  
All I know is 
his stubbornness, his mistake,
made a day I remember 
in a childhood 
I have largely forgotten,  
a bookmark in my story, 
the clearest picture I have 
of my boy father. 

Last night, Nickie made shepherd’s pie.  
She didn’t know the story.  I told her -- 
smiling, laughing, remembering, I told her.  Then
I tasted shepherd’s pie for the first time. 

And then I went back for seconds. 



© 2020 Deborah E. Moore, All Rights Reserved

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