I’d open them knowing I shouldn’t, my Eleventh Commandment, thou shalt not find nourishing food Sweet’n Low was a way to keep off pounds. Sweet’n Low staved off migraine headaches. Sweet’n Low didn’t make you fat, fill you up. *** Sweet’n Low was my mother’s hoped-for miracle, a deified substance failing to roll back her stone of depression crushing the two of us. If only her widening flesh hadn’t matched my anorexia; if only Sweet’n Low was some wonder drug you could blend with desserts to save your sanity; while Sugar Mother and the Love Chapel choir went platinum, while damnation preachers got toll-free numbers. Today my mother’s depression is iced by insulin, injections doused with comas of happiness. A machine measures levels of sugar in her blood, its wavy lines like meringue-bearing angels. When I call home she hurries from the phone to make Coconut Bottom Drops, her favorite sweet for the Friday church supper. I don’t miss those packets of Sweet’n Low, her closeted poisons. It’s the vials of insulin making me jealous. I want to down a few and get the cure, be shot with the love of a million God-fearing Sugar Mothers and not tip the scales. CARLA HARTSFIELD *** BOOKS & THE CULTURE Sugar Mother Shed reach for Sweet’n Low across the Sunday breakfast table with gospel radio going, while damnation preachers beat their fists on lecterns, as the rest of us poured milk over Sugar Pops, Cap’n Crunch, Cornflakes, Cheerios, Wheaties and its champions; while Sugar Mother in her white robe designed for the rapture wailed, “Swing low, sweet chariot” with the Love Chapel choir rocking in background static. Pink pillows of Sweet’n Low spill. They’re like bitter candy fed to bad children. They’re like kisses I never got. They overflow into more cartons of packaged food for dieters lining my mother’s pantry. C aria Hartsfield was born in Waxahachie, a descendent of Colonel Ben Milam on her mother’s side. She completed two performance degrees in piano at U.T.-Austin, married a Canadian, and has been writing, teaching music, and performing as a classical pianist in Toronto for the past fifteen years. Her books include The Invisible Moon and Fire Never Sleeps novel set in Dallas. Naomi Shihab Nye AUGUST 29, 1997 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 23
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