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  • Tharani Balachandran

Summer with my cousins, Scarborough (1992)

By Tharani Balachandran


My sisters and I are lounging through a hot summer

with our cousins in the suburbs.

We ignore the sunshine outside and hole up in the basement,

eating popsicles and playing cards and waiting to be fed.

At breakfast, my grandfather eats Froot Loops with me.

I stare into the bowl and think about how his brittle nails look like the cereal.

My aunts take their pills, one by one;

blue and white, red and green, they look like candy

to my seven-year-old brain.

There are hundreds of them, maybe thousands,

too many to count.

In the afternoon, my mother makes batches of our favorite snack

skinny coils of deep-fried dough spiced delicately with coriander and cumin seeds

that we just can't get enough of.

At dinner, my cousins fight over who gets to eat the fish’s eye

because our parents tell us it will make us smarter.

I look at the fish lying on the table

and decide that I am smart enough.

My aunt supervises me eating with a wooden spoon at the ready

my mother tells her, we don’t hit children who don’t eat

but she doesn’t need to worry about me here.

At home, I am a picky eater, white bread sugar sandwiches and Kraft Dinner

but here I will eat everything my aunts cook, no matter how spicy it is

or what it looks like: everything is delicious.


Our visits are all snacks and laughter.

My father finds my cousin's scrunchie between the couch cushions

and says, here you go, I found your munchie

and we laugh until happy tears roll down our cheeks


This is before

when I was the only one allowed to laugh at my parents

before anyone at school tells me that my favorite snack looks like worms

before my grandfather dies

and I see my father cry for the first time.

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