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 where she is a 2015-16 Engaged Teaching Fellow. Her work has been published in the anthology, Listen to Your Mother: What She Said Then, What We’re Saying Now, and in publications including Drift, Talking Writing, Junk, The Inquisitive Eater, The Asbury Park Press, Italian Americana, VIA-Voices in Italian Americana, Lumina and The Mom Egg. Her essays have been featured on NPR, as well as in live performances of Writers Read, The Art Garden, Letters to Our Ancestors, and Mamapalooza. In 2006 she was awarded the Kathryn Gurfein Writing Fellowship of Sarah Lawrence College and in 2012 she was selected as one of the cast members of the first NYC Listen to Your Mother show, a national series of original live readings.
Kathy has also taught at St. Thomas Aquinas College and Empire State College. She holds a BA and an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College and an MSW from Hunter School of Social Work. She is currently working on a collection of stories about coming of age in the 70s and 80s with her family’s New Jersey gas station as a backdrop.
Kathy lives in the Hudson Valley with her husband and their four children.
Click here for Kathy's CV.