my soul food


mary talks to her bookkeeper from under the dryer, hammering out an appropriate memo to explain to her employees that there will be no holiday bonuses this year – not because of the economy (well, not directly anyway), but because her store manager (for reasons she can’t fathom) approved 33 hours’ worth of overtime for one full-time employee and 24 hours’ worth of overtime for another. after those two checks are written, there simply isn’t any more money.

suzie sits on the gold sofa with a leopardskin throw over her legs as she patiently explains how to cook a turkey to her daughter who is preparing the holiday dinner for the first time ever.

janie’s grandmother drops by to beam her pride at her teenage granddaughter who is now working as the salon’s receptionist and girl friday.

as i sit waiting for kristi (the owner and my stylist) to mix my color, an adorable little 10 year old girl appears at my chair and introduces herself. “are you alison’s mother?” she asks. “i sure am,” i told her.

“i’m ansley. miss alison is my voice teacher.”

that’s when her 5 year old sister, lily appears. in her flannel nightgown. we chat a bit, and just before her mother appears back on the scene, lily tells me “you’re funky” – which i take as a compliment and put my glasses on to punctuate and prove her right. “lily, child, you go put your clothes back on. go on right now. shoo,” her mother says, sending the girls to what was a bedroom when mrs. geiss owned the house decades ago. ansley and lily will spend the day playing with brandie’s (the other stylist) daughter while their mothers spend the day making other women like me feel special and beautiful.

in answer to the simple question as to her readiness for the rapidly-approaching holiday, beth pours out her grief, frustration, and exhaustion. as she tells us about her mother who’s in the depths of a deep depression, currently in ICU where the medical staff treats her body and refuses to treat her troubled mind, as she tells us about her teenage daughter who’s recovering from injuries received in an automobile accident, injuries requiring her mother’s assistance with everything – and i do mean everything, phone calls are quietly ended and cell phones tucked away. it’s two days before christmas, yet all thoughts of shopping and parties and cooking completely disappear as we bear witness to beth. in that moment, nothing is more important to us. nothing.

this is my soul food. this gathering of women in an old victorian house tastefully transformed (with the help of mid-century accoutrements and the tasteful style of the owner) into a veritable pink tent where women come together regularly in the name of beauty, always remembering that there’s beauty . . . and there’s beauty.


today’s post is my response to today’s #reverb10 prompt by mysticflavor: What did you eat this year that you will never forget? What went into your mouth & touched your soul?


  1. Anonymous

    i want to sincerely thank you for this. it was absolutely delicious. and made me miss my grandmother. which is a good thing.

    • whollyjeanne

      oh, jen, what a compliment. thank you.

  2. Liz

    You bring forth so much beauty. One day I am going to get my hair done in that pink tent with you.

    • whollyjeanne

      well, liz, now i have something to look forward to. you will love this place with its pink walls and an oversize barbie soaking in a bathtub filled with shiny ornaments and its hair dryers on a stick.

  3. Mark

    Everytime I stop by, I find new meanings of beauty.

    • whollyjeanne

      thank you, mark. that’s quite a compliment.

    • whollyjeanne

      thank you, mark. that’s quite a compliment.

  4. Shannon

    Absolutely loved this interpretation of the prompt. Fantastic, Jeanne! Thank you for setting the scene for everyone to enjoy.

    • whollyjeanne

      hey shannon! thank you for taking the time to read and comment. xo

    • whollyjeanne

      hey shannon! thank you for taking the time to read and comment. xo

  5. Beth

    Jeanne, this is Beth. I had no idea you were listening intently to my story as I was listening intently to your manager/overtime story. To read what you wrote, “…yet all thoughts of shopping and parties and cooking completely disappear as we bear witness to beth. in that moment, nothing is more important to us. nothing.” That brought tears to my eyes that someone was listening and thought my moment was so important. Thank you so much for writing about me. You have touched me. As you were getting your hair done and telling Kristi about your manager troubles, I was saying a prayer for you and hoping you could work something out with your situation. I guess we never really know who is listening and sending up silent prayers. I love that “pink tent!” It is so relaxing and homey and an overall cherry place. Hope to run into you again in the near future. MERRY CHRISTMAS!

    • Beth

      Oops. Just reread the story and realized that Jeane is not the actual person of the manager/overtime story! My brain is so tired and body exhausted from dealing with my issues right now. Whoever you are Jeane, you wrote a wonderful account of our time there. And, Mary, if you end up reading this, my response above should have been directed to you about your situation. Thanks for the wonderful account Jeane. It was really touching to me.

  6. Sally G.

    It’s amazing how so many things other than food actually feed our souls. This was beautiful. My soul feels warm and nurtured. Thank you …

    • whollyjeanne

      thank YOU, my friend. whenever you and i connect online, i feel like i’m in the pink tent again.

  7. suezdawter

    Great story! Heartfelt and soulful…

  8. Heather

    Oh, I love this post! It makes me want to head out to get my hair done and come home to watch Steel Magnolias. Yes, thank you for the reminder that soul food isn’t always found on our plates.

    • whollyjeanne

      oh yes, steel magnolias. do you know i played m’lynn on stage once? there’s talk of doing it again, too.

  9. Noel

    This is such an awesome, unique take on this post, and it’s so true. Love it.

    I also love the way you do the dialogue with the … not sure what you call them … vertical lines instead of the quotations. It seems much more natural this way!

  10. Jean Burman

    I think you have to be a girl to really get this. Not that boys wouldn’t… it’s just that girls are so connected in this kind of camaraderie… the kind that transcends boundaries of time and place… people and culture. I am in Australia far far from the veritable pink tent… and yet I hear you loud and clear. There’s a pink tent over here too… of wonderful women who are always ready and willing to “wrap their collective arms around us to welcome us home”. And let me just say how good it feels to be home! Thanks Jeanne. This was so beautifully written. I enjoyed every moment of it.

    • whollyjeanne

      you know, jean, it’s interesting how much the men around here love plays like steel magnolias and divine secrets of the ya ya sisterhood. there’s just something about women coming together in support of each other instead of that cat clawing that happens far too often (and that some would perpetuate). thanks for stopping by. it’s a long way for you;)

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