Category Archives: Yep I’m Becoming My Mother

Musings about the various ways I’m unwittingly mimicking my mother.

A Thanksgiving Feast, Intimate

We stood next to the dining room table, a 1920’s Art Deco antique passed down from my great-grandmother Nanny. Decades-old scratches laced its corners but a fresh coat of furniture polish and a sprinkling of orange and brown Thanksgiving-themed decor, carefully placed earlier before they arrived, brought it into modern festivity.

“How many meals have been eaten at this table over the generations?” my dad observed with a hint of nostalgia as he scanned the room, his grey-white hair neatly combed and a crisp flannel button-up clothing his smallish frame.

I eyed the antique buffet cupboard next to the table. “I thought about taking all that stuff off and putting the desserts on top,” I replied. It was strategically covered with recipe books and photographs and trinkets and candles. It was always covered with coconut pies and chocolate cakes during holidays at Nanny’s house.

This Thanksgiving it was just the four of us- my mom, dad, and teenage son. It still feels weird to say that, ‘teenage’. In so many ways he is still just a boy. His dark-blond hair tousled and his imagination still intact. Although his appetite is one of a teenager. His meat-eating is making up for all the mammals he did not consume the first several years of his life.

I’d also set the table before my parents arrived, arranging the crystal glasses and beautiful black and silver bone china plates on the brown and gold place-mats. The plates were as flawless as they’d been when they arrived in packages at the doorstep as wedding gifts for me and my soon-to-be husband. He did not ask for any of the china when we separated or officially divorced. I would have shared it with him, of course. It took a year or so afterwards for me to even look at the china. Now I wash and dry them carefully after holiday meals, tracing the raised etchings with my fingers.

My mom and I shared a bottle of wine, perfectly chilled and light and brisk, just as I imagine the vines in Washington, from where it came. Back in the small and warmly-lit kitchen our appetizer spread was a gorgeous mingling of banana bread, fine cheeses, fresh fruit, honey, and my mom’s amazing deviled eggs, sprinkled with paprika. We ate and drank and chatted while the teenager napped peacefully on the couch. The main course just an hour from ready to devour.

When the yeast rolls were browned and the salad tossed with olive oil and white balsamic vinegar, it was time. We filled our stately plates with an assortment of both mine and my parent’s favorite holiday dishes. The light and crunchy salad paired well with the warm green bean casserole and fluffy potatoes. Tart and sweet cranberry sauce made the perfect coupling with the savory, chicken casserole (we do that instead of the traditional turkey, it is a hundred times better). Baked sweet potatoes sprinkled with cinnamon and a touch of butter is good any time of year.

We enjoyed the dinner back at the dining room table, my dad at the head and my son on the other end, my mom across from me. We filled our bellies and mused and laughed. The pumpkin-scented candles flickered on the dark wood. The open window left a cool breeze to gently cascade in as the squirrels played around the big oak tree. Frank Sinatra and the like serenaded through the stereo speakers. No phones buzzing or ringing.

The table was cleared and an engaging game of “Heads Up” began. Then we slipped into a family traditional card game of “Oh Heck” which brings out the competitive nature in even me and my mom. I finally won! After all these years!

Dessert followed, still on bone china, although these plates smaller and more delicate. Home-made creamy, spiced pumpkin pie from my mom, and Coke-cola chocolate cake made by me and my son. A perfectly sweet ending.

There were times when we had sort of a house full on Thanksgiving. Various friends and family over the years and in several different dining rooms or lanais. Although this one not a house full, it felt full in the way it does when company has encased you with good energy and love and you are left smiling and dancing as you clean the remnants of a Thanksgiving feast, intimate.

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October Sunday Morning

I woke up wanting to hear A Place Without a Postcard, my favorite band’s kind of forgotten album (at least among my own collection). It’s Sunday. The final day of an event-filled short weekend. Laundry is being washed, dishes are soaking in the sink. The bamboo shade has been drawn in the office where I now sit, lest the sun’s searing, penetrating beams suck away any energy I have to make this a productive day.

October breezes are welcome. Weekend afternoon naps appreciated.

My kid is growing up way too fast. I’m trying to grasp and hold on to the smidgen of childhood he has left. I think he is, too. He always says he doesn’t want to grow up, doesn’t want to get older. Well he doesn’t have to look too far to see what it’s like to be a kid-at-heart.  Being a systematized adult is overrated. I want to wear goofy hats and laugh at fart jokes sometimes too.

I was a kid just yesterday, wasn’t I? Good lord I graduated from college 20 years ago. Is that right? Yes, yes it is. But I’m not one to start moaning and groaning about the pains of aging. Physically I don’t feel a day over 25 unless I try to read something. Mentally I feel about 60. In Yoda years that’s nothing. Our brains have an immense amount of time to evolve and grow and settle.

But sometimes I want to curl up in bed while someone makes breakfast for me. Someone drives me here and there. Someone to tell me to rake the leaves, do my homework. Long days spent staring at posters on the wall listening to tapes from the boom box. Perhaps that’s the place without a postcard?

 

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As it Exists in our Minds

They say you can’t go back. Or perhaps you shouldn’t. But sometimes it’s inevitable.

Steely Dan Radio on Pandora. That’ll do it for me. A tinge of past immediately starts flowing through the neurons and blood stream. Back to childhood days in my dad’s mustard El Camino or hunched over the Fischer-Price record player with my brother.  Back to teenage days, cycling through songs on random play from the new CD player. Back to college days, blasting out the sub woofers in my ’87 Nissan Sentra. And about a hundred other memories involving a Steely Dan song.

Whether you want it to or not, music will take you back.

There are those songs you can’t bear to hear. Either they bring back a dark memory or someone you’d rather not keep in your consciousness. Those we turn off as soon as we can, if possible. Or perhaps we need a good cry out and we let it rip.

Then there are those songs that fire up our frontal lobe like fourth of July sparklers and we are transported to a time and place no longer existing. Even if our childhood homes are still intact, or the city in which we grew up, it is never the same.

I guess that’s why they say you can never go back. Because no matter how bad we may want it to be there, it is gone.

And that is one of the many beauties of music– enabling us to hold onto a moment as if we were right there. Right there in our dad’s old car. Right there on the front porch with the Walk-man. Right there in the school parking lot with our quirky friends. Right there dancing with Grandma. Or and old friend. Or an old flame. Those that have moved on or passed away. In this moment they are alive.

And this is why I play Steely Dan on Sunday morning. So I won’t forget.

El Camino

 

 

 

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Marie

A photograph of you welcomes
anyone entering my door
It was taken years ago

The scent of tobacco leaves fill my
olfactory memory
Chats by the kitchen table
Home-grown tomatoes and buttermilk
biscuits
Scribbled artwork on the fridge
Crumpled tissue next to the snuff cup

We have the same middle name

Decades of holidays and summer visits
tree climbing
autumn leaf pile jumping
Tag in the backyard
Old toys smelling of age
Walks in the cemetery

You always bought me pajamas and
kitchen towels for Christmas
Now shredded and worn thin

Your birthday card consistently the first
in my mailbox
But this year it never arrived

You always stood at your front door
to watch me drive away

And this is how I will remember you
Furiously waving as if never wanting to say
good-bye.

IMG_7661

Rest in Peace, Emma Marie. Granny. You will be greatly missed.

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Fried Pies

These are the apricot fried pies my mom used to make when I was a kid. I’ve mentioned them here before.

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This is a photo taken a couple years back when she revisited the recipe in response to my nagging about wanting some. Forgive my crappy food photography.

But can’t you just taste them? The golden, buttery crust. The sweet, sticky apricot. Why have I now tortured myself so? My mom is out of town, taking care of my ailing grandmother. There is no way I’m getting a bite of these. I’ve tried recreating some of her recipes to no avail.

There are other tastes from my childhood which linger on my tongue. Granny’s backyard garden tomatoes, crimson, bursting with robust nectar. Nana’s pancake corn bread, the edges crispy and the middle a fluffy intoxication of milled corn. Nanny’s sweet rice, solidly puffed, dewy with cream and sugar, peppered with a hint of nutmeg.

Can you get I was raised in the South?

Now I’m one of those gluten-free, non-mammal eaters. Don’t hate me. My digestive system, conscience, and waist line appreciates it.

I’m grateful to have these culinary memories. I hope to provide the same. I do make a pretty mean grilled cheese for little man. And this Moroccan chicken stew. And coconut rice that tastes almost as good as Nanny’s.

What sumptuous dishes do you remember from your childhood? Have you ever tried recreating them?

 

 

 

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Spirograph and Worn Antiques

I have been thinking a lot about my grandmother lately. The one who is deceased, not the one who is alive. Granny is still dipping snuff and listening to country music in her ranch-style home. Nana is somewhere with that great spirit in the sky, perhaps noshing on walnuts and dancing to Glenn Miller.

But I have felt her presence lately. I’m not sure why she has decided to visit but I will welcome it nevertheless.

The other day I was sitting at the dining room table, a worn 1920’s set I inherited from Nana’s mother. For a moment I was ten again, or rather wished I was. I could hear echoes of my cousin’s laughter and smell the buttered toast Nana would broil for us every morning. I could see her spinning in the front room to the sound of the jazz album. I could feel the spongy firmness of the big eraser I used to delete scattered lines from my latest Spirograph design.

There was always something to do at Nana and Papa’s. Whether it was trudging and scavenging and playing among Papa’s junk yard or dancing to the music from the turn table and playing “Office” in the living room or being a guinea pig in one of my older cousin’s traps or home-made haunted houses in the basement.

Sometimes it feels like those times were a hundred years ago. But thank god I have those memories at least.

I love that my own son now plays around that worn antique set. Does his homework there. Builds Legos. Has chatty weeknight dinners with me there. I bought him a Spirograph set a while back. He didn’t quite take to it like I thought he would.

I think my Nana would be proud of me for the most part. Maybe that’s why she visits from time to time. Just to let me know.

And to remind me to keep dancing.

glenn miller dancing

 

 

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1982 Called

Quintessential 80's

 

This photograph encapsulates so much of what I remember-and miss- about the ’80s. This is a real photograph (as if you couldn’t tell from the faded color and hideous retro wallpaper) of me, my bro, and some neighbor kids in the kitchen where I ate many of my meals from 1979 to 1995.

This kitchen went through several make-overs over the decades but this is what it looked like for many of my young childhood years. That damn telephone cord ticked me off more than a few times as it either coiled up in a way even Houdini would have a difficult time unraveling the thing or it choked me or my brother as my mom methodically raced around the kitchen prepping hobo dinners and fried apricot pies.

But there was always a surprise to who may be on the other end of the line when it loudly rang until you picked it up. And during phone conversations there was not really anywhere to go but stretch the cord beyond its limits into the dining room to have a “private” conversation.

And that Tupperware. I don’t know how but I have that olive-green bowl I’m eating from in the photograph resting on a shelf in my own kitchen now. Don’t know what happened to the others. I suppose they are in Tupperware heaven, reuniting with their lids. I take my Greek yogurt to school in mine and the kids look at it as if it’s a relic from an ancient civilization. God knows how many PBAs have mutated inside. But I love it because it reminds me of this time. The ’80s. A time I will forever be nostalgic about.

Look how happy we are eating our ice cream. At first glance I thought it might be cottage cheese because we did eat that with canned pineapple at times but what kids would be that excited about curdled cheese?

My brother was always goofy. I was the overachiever who loved him making me laugh.  Though now he is 700 miles away from me I can hear a line from a movie or song from our childhood and burst out in laughter thinking how he would mimic it.

There are hundreds more nostalgic memories I have from those years but right now I’ll just leave it at this one photograph.

Even though most everything in that kitchen is now in a landfill (except the rustic fall scene painting- my Granny has it) that is how the kitchen always looks in my dreams.

 

What did your childhood kitchen look like? Is there anything you wish you still had from it?

 

 

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