Mama’s favorite beans when cooking are black beans. Jade Seneca, the Chinese place a block up, and around the corner, she orders chicken and broccoli. When someone’s sick, we order chicken and rice soup. Sometimes she makes Lipton with a packet of Sazon and sofrito, a cube or two. Breakfast on the go is a cherry danish from the coffee stall in the city. Hot chocolate all winter long. In New York, the winters are long. If you stop by here when it’s winter, guess what you’re getting? Quiere chocolaté? We’ve got plenty. At the Japanese place downtown, by Chambers, I think? She orders lemon chicken. Never sushi. She doesn’t like mochi ice cream, so she lets me take it. She doesn’t drink. Only a pina colada. It has to be virgin. While we’re shopping on Myrtle, to cool off on a hot summer day, there’s a pidaqua stand on the same block as Payless. Her pidaqua is either grape or cherry flavored. When we’re buying candy for the theater or at home, her favorites are Mary Janes, Peanut Chews, and Snow Caps. Random days my dad will come back from the bodega with Sno Balls to surprise her. She hates olives. She uses her fork to take them off her plate, and drop them onto my father’s. At the dollar store, she grabs a pack of jelly rings, chocolate covered cherries, and when it’s Easter, it’s Peeps, and chocolate covered marshmallow eggs. Whenever I visit, and I’m homesick, she makes fricassee de pollo for lunch. At the all you can eat Chinese buffet, my mother likes crab legs. Ice cream from the Mr. Softie truck, always vanilla. Grape juice, cranberry juice, apple juice — always juice in the fridge. And iced tea. My mother bought the frozen kind, concentrate. Where she mixed it with water and stirred it in a pitcher. She doesn’t like spicy. She buys Franciso Rinaldi pasta sauce. Meat flavored. So she doesn’t get heart burn. Always Tums in the house. Heart burn is something she always has. She expects nothing less than Whitman’s chocolate for Valentines Day. If we’re making a trip to the bodega for munchies, honey BBQ chips it is. Come church events, she’s bringing potato salad. Sunflower seeds on the train, we spit our shells in the plastic bag. She’d always tell me, when your father and I were dating, he took me to Outback’s. Burgers and steaks, always well done. Applebees for birthdays. McDonalds: Big Mac, Burger King: Whopper, Wendy’s: Either a taco salad, chicken sandwich or baked potato with cheese and broccoli. I know all her favorites, and all her orders like the back of my hand, even though I don’t remember what I ate for dinner yesterday. I’d do anything to cook for her. She doesn’t have to cook for me. I’d do anything to eat with her again. I’d do anything to treat her again. To meet her for lunch during my work break. I’d do anything anything anything everything to just share that last piece of cake we baked together from the box always white cake mix always vanilla frosting or cool whip on the top. But I can’t, because it’s four years later, and my mama’s still gone. And I still use present tense because these things I know about her still are. Just like she still is. In my memory, in my dreams, even if not physically. Here with me. She’s in my heart.
I hear Jade Seneca closed. It was our go to Chinese restaurant ever since I was a kid. The place was probably as old as, if not older, than me. I think the pandemic must’ve hit it hard. Was sad to hear it’s gone now.