|The Chicago house of my childhood.|
Several years ago, when my oldest granddaughter, Maddie, was five or six, she and I were in the guest room giggling about something, the rest of the family was in the living room, and the dogs were in the back yard barking continually.
“Colin really must do something about those dogs,” I said, getting up off the bed and heading for the living room. Maddie darted ahead of me, stormed into the room, and hands on hips said, “Colin, you really must do something about those dogs.” She mimicked me perfectly—tone, inflection, even the semi-angry stance. I clearly heard myself. Everyone laughed, and Colin went to quiet the dogs.
That incident came to mind because I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the conventional wisdom that every woman turns into her mother. In my case, that would be a very good thing. But it’s not her laughter or her wisdom, her passion for learning and food, its not even her enveloping love that I’m thinking of. It’s little things.
In Chicago summers, in an old house without air conditioning, Mom would throw the house open in the early morning to bring in cool, fresh air; by noon she had it closed up tight, shades drawn against the sun, and it stayed that way at least until dark set in. I do the same with my cottage, turning off the a/c and opening the French door so Sophie can come and go, and I can get the feel of being outdoors, even at my desk.
For her children, Mom was a one-woman clipping service, often sending us news pieces that she thought we would or should enjoy. I’m afraid Christian gets the brunt of that from me because I’m always sending him links to stuff about garden and lawn care (I did just this morning) or recipes I think he’ll like. I did send all the kids a note yesterday that their favorite greasy spoon in Waco is for sale and I wondered if they wanted to make it a family business. Only a million and a half.
Mom lived through the Depression as a young wife and mother, and the rest of her long life she wasted nothing. When we cleaned out her refrigerator that last time, we found baby food jars with unidentifiable bits of food in them, some of it moldy. She used paper towels twice—once on a counter spill and the second time on a floor spill—and she had a special place she kept them in between. She saved bits of string, used gum wrappers (they were aluminum back in the day), and rubber bands. She canned her own tomatoes, made her own applesauce and soups, and cooked from scratch. I’m not as frugal, a fact she often pointed out to me once I had my own home, but I save leftovers in the freezer, and I do a lot of scratch cooking. I thought of Mom the other night when I made salmon croquettes, one of the dishes she regularly rotated though in retrospect I can’t imagine how she got my meat-and-potatoes father to eat them.
I’ve got a long way to go to be as kind and gracious as my mom, let alone as good a cook and as good a mom, but sometimes I hear her in my voice or recognize her in my attitude. It makes me smile.
On another note, I slept so hard and dreamt so vividly this morning that I woke thinking if I could write like I dream I’d have best-selling novels and box-office hits to my name. My dreams were jumbled but somewhere in there was a sit com about New York fashionistas enduring the hardships of camping for the sake of the men in their lives—it was all slapstick humor, and, by the end, there was not much love to be lost. And then there was a movie about what a wonderful life on the lam a runaway girl had, and I remember thinking what an awful, unrealistic role model that was for young girls. No, it had nothing to do with the movie by that name or the band. It probably came from a book I was reading last night where a young girl is kidnapped, and some officers insist that she was probably just another runaway.
Here's my cheer for the day: to Jou Joubert, barbecue pitmaster who was delivering the wedding dinner to a party at a private home, only to learn that the minister hadn’t shown up and the bride was in tears. Asked if he was an ordained minister, he told them yes and married the couple in a ten-minute ceremony.
And here’s my boo-hiss for the day: to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram for a headline proclaiming that Beto swore at an Abbott supporter. Beto’s got too much class for that kind of cheap political stunt. Swear he did, but who the man would vote for wasn’t the issue. Beto swore out of passionate, deep-down anger at a man who would try to make a joke out of AR-15s and the massacre at Uvalde. I might not have used the same word, but I’d have sworn too. Go, Beto!