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The weight of memories

Maintaining a healthy weight is important to me. But I recently put on 10 pounds.

“It’s happy weight,” my girlfriends say. “Don’t worry. You’ll lose it.”

I was about 15 pounds overweight growing up. It’s not because I sat in front of the television. My childhood home sat on 10 acres of wooded land; I always played outside. I was plump because I lived with a culinary artist: my mother.

After my parents married, they found their dream homestead in Eden situated on fertile farming soil.

Their greatest creations were their gardens. The smaller herb beds were divided by rocks and surrounded the main fruit and vegetable garden, which covered a half-acre and was encircled by a white picket fence my father built.

“I gained all kinds of weight during those years,” my mother said. “We liked to have fun together. Food was part of that fun.”

All the women on my mother’s side of the family had excellent culinary gifts. Unfortunately I never knew them. But my mom did. In her early 20s she asked each of them for their recipes. If they didn’t write them down, she watched them cook or bake, and later approximated the ingredients in a notebook.

Those recipes, along with meals she found and ripped out of various waiting room magazines, became a source of nourishment for me when I came along.

My mother liked to hang dinner menus on the refrigerator every week. This wasn’t your average “Wednesday Taco Night” kind of list, but more like “Garlic Shrimp Pasta with Tomatoes, Lemon and Spinach Mondays,” and “Quiche Lorraine with Ratatouille Thursdays.”

A lot of ingredients came from our backyard.

I understand why the gardens fell into disarray after my father’s death on Jan. 14, 2007. Unraked leaves covered weeds that quickly consumed the once brilliant fruit and vegetables. The white picket fence, whose paint had begun to chip on the rotted wood, eventually fell. It was difficult for me to come home for six years; an empty plot of land had replaced my parents’ sanctuary.

But with time came healing.

Last summer, my mother had a new fence put up. With help from her brother, she began gardening again. It wasn’t my dad’s, but it was homage to their lifeblood.

I just moved into an old brownstone on the Upper West Side in Manhattan with a man whom it seems I was fated to meet.

The apartment we live in has a backyard. I decided to start my own garden when I saw all the available dirt. Weeding, planting and pruning came surprisingly natural to me. We often eat home-cooked meals.

Calling Eden now and again for recipes, I have begun to experiment with cooking. I want to cook and bake like my mother; I want to make her and my father proud.

It’s unpleasant buying bigger jeans. But if the added inches are, indeed, “happy weight,” why would I want to lose it?

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