All hail, the queen
Updated: May 7
Mother’s Day is Sunday, but Mom should be honored every day.
I have to be honest with you. Last week while testing this recipe for Orange and Almond Cream Cheese French Toast, I didn’t have an idea for the Mother’s Day story. Truthfully, this is an easy recipe with just a few steps, so it’s not like I need to give you a list of instructions.
So, I I tried to conjure up a memory of a past Mother’s Day with either my mother or grandmother, but nothing came to mind. I’m sure we celebrated, but why couldn’t I think of a story to share with you?
And then it occurred to me: I don’t really like Mother’s Day because my mom is dead.
This isn’t a recent loss; the 15th anniversary of her passing is next month. She was a big part of my life, and it’s on holidays when I acutely feel her absence.
Please understand that I’m not sharing this for attention or pity. Rather, I’d like to give space for other people who may similarly find it hard to “celebrate” Mother’s Day. So, if you just want the recipe, go ahead and skip to the end now.
But for those of us who are missing our mothers at this time of year, let’s spend a few moments together.
Tell me, what was she like? Was she a great cook? Did she teach you about cooking? What made the two of you laugh? Has she been gone a long time from you or is this a recent loss? Please share your comments below if you’re so moved. I mean, a blog really is just an online community of people sharing the same interest, right? Let’s be here for each other.
I’ll start with a story about my mother, Katie, and my grandma, Dorothy. I’ve introduced them to you before while sharing a couple of their recipes; you'll find these under the home cooks category. More of our family's recipes are in the new Three Women in the Kitchen cookbook. In fact, the reason I started this project last year was in homage to them because they both taught me how to cook and how to be generous.
Mom was one of six surviving children (a sister died as a baby). She’d often relate how her mother, Margaret Brolaski, was worn out by the time she was 30. Margaret’s marriage to Louis was an arranged one, and it wasn’t happy. The family always struggled, and Mom once told me that it wasn’t unusual for her to go to bed hungry as a child.
Although I didn’t have a relationship with my maternal grandmother, Mom described her as generous, a woman who’d give you the coat off her back. Maybe that’s who modeled generosity to my mother, or maybe she just had a heart for it. What I remember is Mom always making room at her table for anybody who cared to stay for dinner, whether that was a recently widowed uncle, one of my friends, or somebody from her church.
In fact, after I left home, Mom often invited a young man from her church who was studying to be a minister. And while she spooned generous portions of food onto his plate, she nourished his spirit by reminding him, “Rick, you’re going to make a fantastic preacher one of these days, so don’t give up.” The Rev. Rick Oberle shared that story as part of Mom’s eulogy and also mentioned how she ministered to people by making them food.
Mom and Dad (Bob) both were young children during the Great Depression, but Grandma “Bubba” had to run a household during the hard times. She raised chickens, planted gardens, and fed any destitute man looking for work or a meal who came to our backyard gate.
Bubba always had the coffee pot on and ready to pour a cup for a relative or neighbor. And I don’t think it’s a stretch to say she adored me. She and Grandpa (Larry) lived on the second floor of our old townhouse, and I often climbed the stairs as a kid so Bubba and I could have play time together while Grandpa watched Bonanza on television. I also knew not to take any of Grandpa’s caramels without first asking. (He always said yes.)
I had the ridiculous good fortune to grow up with parents and my paternal grandparents in the same home. In my sheltered world, I just figured everybody’s family was like that, which is course wasn’t the case. Mom and Bubba are so sorely missed, but my heart is full, and I believe I’m richer for having spent so much time with them.
And honestly, shouldn’t we all treat our mothers like the queens they are every single day? We shouldn’t need a national holiday to remind us to “call Mom” or to send her a card dripping with sentiment.
I find it interesting that Anna Jarvis, the woman who conceived the first Mother’s Day in the U.S. in 1908 to recognize the sacrifices moms make for their children wanted the holiday removed from the calendar in 1920 because it had become so commercialized. I wonder what Anna would say today?
I’m fortunate in that my daughter often thanks me for the things I do. One of my favorite cards from her lists what she loves about me, and No. 1 is “you make me good food.” The fact that we'll spend time together takes some of the sting out of Mother's Day for me.
Those of you who have living mothers (if I still have your attention), allow me to impart some motherly advice; do nice things for your mom on a regular basis. Call several times a week, send pretty cards “just because”, and do things together whenever you can.
Realizing daughters and mothers sometimes live far apart, and that this relationship can be a complicated one, it’s important not to allow yourself to grow distant. If COVID has taught us anything this past year, it’s the truth “you don’t know what tomorrow will bring.” Text her “good night, I love you” before she turns in for the night. Make the effort to ask her about her life before you showed up on the scene.
Because one of these days, you’ll be in my shoes wishing you could invite Mom over for dinner on Sunday, only to realize oh yeah, she’s gone.