Friday, May 10, 2013

What My Mother Gave Me: Recipe For A Life

This week before Mother’s Day I watched a Mama Bunny diligently yet perhaps unwisely dig a burrow next to my front walkway.  With the unending rain we’ve had this spring the grass has stayed too wet to cut, so I assume she thought the tall grass was a perfect spot for her young brood. She worked furiously all morning, then by lunchtime the hole was practically invisible because she had camouflaged the new nest with grass and leaves.  Although my yard suffers this year from an epidemic of rabbits, to honor the work of this mother I put a small gardening bench over the burrow to protect her family from any lawnmowers.

Somewhere under that flimsy covering is her little litter, waiting to emerge to all the dangers of the cats in neighborhoods, the hawks and other predator birds that visit from the nearby park, and the constant stream of cars in the street.  While Mama Bunny might be powerless to protect her children from these threats, she’s done her best to give her children a safe and warm start in life right next to my garden, which appears to overflow with fabulous bunny snacks.

I think for this Mother’s Day I’m going to turn the tables and list the things that my mom gave to me that made me feel as good as a baby bunny hidden in a burrow.

But before I begin, let me first get this off my chest.  I resent my mother for not giving me her statuesque figure or skinny thighs.

Now on to what she did give me:
a propensity to see the best in people until proven otherwise

a willingness to trust

a belief that what I wanted to do with my life was valuable (whatever that would be)

a love of laughter

a belief in family as a strong foundation

a love of bearded irises and tulips to mark Spring

her recipe for Christmas fudge

a tendency to put others first (even when I should be taking care of my own urgent business – so this isn’t always a great quality, not for me and not for her)

love, love, and more love

her recipe box and her wooden cutting board (or what I took after she was gone and Dad was selling the house)

a vague idea of how to make great fried chicken and gravy (vague because I never wrote it down before she passed away – but I think I came pretty close this week)

my space

a magenta cropped sweater with midnight blue and emerald knitted flower appliques that screamed “I am here!” at a time in my life when I was unsure whether I really felt comfortable being noticed


knowledge of how to throw together a party for 5-50 people without sweating it, even when her 25-year old stove gave up the ghost the day before our Christmas Eve family dinner for grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and anyone else who showed up.

a deeply felt obligation to stay late after church events to help with the clean-up

the admonition before I headed off to college that people are more important than books (I think it was her loving way to tell me not to stop acting like a know-it-all)

an 8-foot long cream colored winter scarf she crocheted for me during one of her last trips to the hospital.  We joked that it was so long because she was delirious from drugs and didn’t know when to stop.  I still wear it.

my faith

the freedom to sing movie soundtracks at the top of my lungs, even if my sisters tried to make me believe I was horrible

a love of Paul Newman and Carol Burnett

a love of the written word when she read Erma Bombeck columns aloud at the breakfast table

a constant lesson on how a good person behaved

the money for viola lessons

the amber-hued viola, which I imagine came after an intense discussion with my dad who was never willing to even buy a new car or a steak dinner over $9

her blessing to go to college far away

a sense of the mother I wish I could be, although many days feels like I’ve failed

her presence at my college graduation even though it took its toll and she had to be rushed from the ceremony hundreds of miles back home to be re-admitted to the hospital for the lung disease that eventually killed her

my independence

her memory to guide me since she isn’t here

The mother rabbit spends only moments of time on the nest throughout the day.  It’s not out of neglect or disinterest.  By staying away she diverts attention from her babies long enough for them at least to become self-sufficient.  Leaving them alone is how she gives them life.  It’s just one gift that mothers give us to make us who we become.

While watching Mama Bunny the last few days, this blog post morphed from “What My Mother Said To Me” (“I’ll give you something to cry about”) to “What My Mother Gave Me.”  When I did a search of the tentative title to see what else was out there for further perspective, I discovered that last month a book by the same title had been published.  Edited by Elizabeth Benedict, it offers a collection of essays on the multitude of ways that mothers bond with daughters through personal talismen or particular acts.  I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but I want to.

I would love to hear two or three things that your mother has given you that have meant the most.  Tell your stories in the comments box.  Meanwhile, I’ll share an essential item from my mother’s recipe collection – cream cheese frosting.  Come to think of it, I’m the happy owner of the glass mixing bowl used for creating this delicacy for the spice cakes Mom baked.  Add one more thing to my list.

Related Posts with Thumbnails