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Pictures of Mom

As you celebrate Mother’s Day on Sunday, picture your mother in your mind. Where is she? My mom could be inside or outside, and she was always busy.  

              Using a needle and thread, she made clothes for herself and me that were finer than those sold on 5th Avenue in New York City, and the living room drapes she sewed hung with perfect pleats. When I heard Mom and Dad discuss money matters and major purchases, I knew that she held the checkbook and it balanced to the penny every month. 

            Mom grew beautiful flowers, especially irises and roses, and even though, Dad, my brother, and I worked in our yard and vegetable garden, Mom was the general.  She made flower arrangements for Sunday church services, and when I was a twelve she opened a flower shop in our home’s basement.  Her skills and talents to create and manage money made the business successful.  So successful that its profits paid for my brother’s and my college educations.

            After retirement, Mom and Dad took up golf and most Wednesday and Sunday afternoons, they and my aunt and uncle were on the golf course.  Those were also the years that Mom began making quilts, all pieced and stitched by hand, one for each of her three grandchildren.

            Many pictures of Mom float through my head, but most vivid are those of her in her kitchen.  She’s wearing an apron, made from a twenty-five-pound flour bag, tied around her waist.  Using her green-handled pastry cutter, she cuts Crisco into Martha White self-rising flour, then adds buttermilk, and stirs just enough to moisten the dry ingredients.  Then she dumps the dough onto a flour-covered pastry cloth and kneads it a few times, rolls it gently with a rolling pin, and cuts out biscuits.

            Mom uses that same biscuit dough to make a favorite wintertime dessert, butter sticks.  While butter melts in a big glass casserole dish in the oven, she cuts the flattened dough into rectangles about the size of a small candy bar.  Then she coats both sides of each piece of dough with melted butter and places them in the dish.  The dough gets a good heavy-handed sprinkling of sugar and bakes while Mom, Dad, my brother, and I eat supper.   

            A big black skillet sits on the front stove eye, and Mom pours oil into it.  She dips chicken pieces in milk and then drops them into a brown paper grocery bag that holds a mixture of flour, salt, and pepper.  Mom hands me the bag to shake and she sprinkles flour onto the oil to test if it’s hot enough for frying chicken.  With tongs, she gently places each chicken piece into the hot oil.  After a few minutes, she turns the chicken to brown to other side and she knows, just by looking, exactly when the chicken is done – crisp on the outside, juicy tender inside.

            There aren’t printed photos of Mom cooking, maybe because it didn’t seem like anything special, but now, I know it was.  Her cooking not only fed my body, it nourished my soul. ####

Mother’s Day Reflections

As I think about Mother’s Day, I think of things I did. Things I would have denied I’d do as a mom, as an adult. I’d never mow the yard to seek sanctuary. Never eat a sandwich made with molded bread. Never lock children out of the house. And I didn’t know mothering was for life.

My children were four and six years old when I discovered the solitary joy of mowing the yard. Daughter and Son played outside and knew to stay far from me as I walked behind our gas-powered lawn mower. And I didn’t walk fast. For at least an hour, my children dug in the sand pile, rode bikes, just played outside within my sight, and they knew not to come close to the lawn mower. I had my thoughts, my relative quiet time, all to myself.

I wasn’t finished mowing one day and it was near lunchtime so Daughter, then about age seven, waved her hands frantically to get my attention.   She offered to make lunch. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Daughter and Son carried a tray with sandwiches, apples, and pitcher of Kool-Aid lemonade to our outside picnic table. After I ate the last bite of my sandwich I said, “It was the perfect lunch. Thank you!”

“The bread looked kinda’ funny,” Daughter said. I asked what she meant. “It had some green spots. They didn’t look good so I just put ‘em on the inside.” The sandwich was delicious.

It makes sense to lock the doors when children are inside the house. But when they are outside? One cold winter day, when my two were young teenagers and arguing about something insignificant (I don’t even remember what) and I refused to get involved in their squabbles, I went outside to our deck and called them to come to me. I said, “I don’t want to hear your argument. Stay out here until you settle it and can be nice to each other.” And then I went back in our house and locked the door and said through a closed window, “You can knock when you are ready to come in.”

BC, (Before Children), I thought parents raised children to 18 or 21 and then sent them on their way. I learned differently while mine were still young. Grandma Gladys, my maternal grandmother, spent the last years of her life in a heath care facility. Rarely going outside, even to sit in a wheelchair, she watched the seasons change through a big window across the room from her bed. I walked into Grandma’s room one January day, just as my mother was kissing her cheek and telling her bye. “Put your coat on. It’s looks cold outside,” Grandma said to her 65-year-old daughter. Grandma’s nurturing instinct was strong even when her mind and body weren’t.

Mom looked up and saw me. “She’ll always be my mother. That’s just how it is,” Mom said. Mothers always mother. Always.

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