Jason Spencer | TOURTIÈRE




For EM

Ma Mare lived alone.
Little house in Penetang.
Built by her sons.
Raised seven kids by herself;
nurse at psychiatric hospital.
Wouldn’t say what went on.
Whispers of experiments, another time.

She always tended to her garden—
even while nearing a century.

Went to church, church with bells.
Not all roots displayed on window sills.
Her children would be ruining
what little opportunity they had,
I suppose.
Afterall, it was my grandfather who
knew thread and needle; who
left grade school for hard labour.

One image from the kitchen of that little house lingers:
When my grandfather and his mother kept
making strange utterances one evening.
He noticed my countenance,
smiled and said,
“It’s weird French.”
And so, a braid of tongues began to unravel.

Throughout my childhood, I was frightened by this small woman’s
piercing presence and doubly intense doggedness.
It wasn’t until my last visit to that little house
that I realized where my mother gets her pluck.
My mother, who called my great-grandmother Ma Mare, and
made her tourtière each Christmas Eve.
I recoiled at the taste when I was young—
I didn’t understand savory nor crumbling, paper-thin crust nor
homemade “catsup.”
But now, I reach for what’s passed down,
twisting with time, as it spirals;
Ma Mare buried among roots;
braided among mutts.
I’ve seen the checkered tree
in the old Catholic cemetery, and
I want to know its trunk; its branches; its leaves; its fruit; its bark.
And, I want the nest retold, laid bare.
First Christmas alone
I made tourtière.


Author’s Bio

Jason Spencer’s journalism has appeared in a variety of publications, including The Mississauga News, where he previously worked as a staff reporter, as well as the National Post, Quill & Quire magazine, and The Toronto Star. Originally from Ontario, he now lives, works, and makes stuff in Victoria, BC.