I grew up in a home on the Jersey Shore that was loving, chaotic and either terrifyingly loud or terrifyingly quiet, depending on my father's mood. It was the sort of place that made people hungry, especially if car windows were open when swerving up into the driveway. Smells from the kitchen of my childhood were that good, they swirled out into the streets and enticed.
It was in that kitchen where my mother, usually dressed in a sleeveless, floral apron (the kind with shiny white snaps instead of buttons) made her particular form of magic happen. To do this she used wooden spoons, her olive oiled hands, a warm smile and no-nonsense orders about life and how it should be lived. In addition to feeding our family's appetites with hearty, flavorful concoctions, it was in this same vein that she fed our souls.
Now I try to replicate that magic in my own kitchen. I wear aprons, cook hearty meals, have my own collection of wooden spoons and toss her orders to my children as they walk out the door and into their own lives, their own worlds.
My mother's no-nonsense words spill out from me, still feeding souls. And the memory of my father's chaotic and loving moods lingers, too, reminding me that forgiveness is entirely possible and that the human condition is a stunning paradox.
Speaking of the terrifying and tender, that’s what brings me to the page. I write because I have to. I write because people and words fascinate me. I write because it takes me home.
Kathy Curto teaches at The Writing Institute/Sarah Lawrence College and Montclair State University. She also serves as a Teaching Artist in the River of Words Program sponsored by the Beacon Institute, a subsidiary of Clarkson University. Her work has been published in the anthology, Listen to Your Mother: What She Said Then, What We’re Saying Now, and in The New York Times, Barrelhouse, La Voce di New York, Drift, Talking Writing, Junk, The Inquisitive Eater, The Asbury Park Press, Italian Americana, VIA-Voices in Italian Americana and Lumina. She has been the recipient of the Kathryn Gurfein Writing Fellowship, the Montclair State University Engaged Teaching Fellowship and also serves on the faculty of the Joe Papaleo Writers’ Workshop in Cetara, Italy. Her forthcoming book, Not for Nothing: Tales of a Jersey Girlhood, is slated for publication by Bordighera Press in December 2018. Kathy lives in the Hudson Valley with her husband and their four children.
Click here for Kathy's CV.