Mother Made

Rows of fresh orchids in plastic shells lined the shelves of the White Way Five and Dime. We picked each up and examined it. We were looking for the perfect red one …

Red symbolized life, and white for death. On Mother’s Day Sunday, we chose our best dresses and proudly wore the red orchids. A simple flower meant immeasurable, unconditional love. That same Sunday, we would take my mother and her mother, my grandmother, out of eat at a sit-down restaurant. This was a treat for everyone as we usually gathered at my grandmother’s on Sundays for lunch. Mother’s Day also included a visit to my grandmother’s mother’s gravesite.

My mother also saved the handmade cards we made as children for her. No Hallmark would do.

Today, I despise the lead up to Mother’s Day.  I get confused and angered by the numerous commercials that urge us to buy, buy, buy to show our love for our mothers. I’m angry in that my mother is not around to see me proudly wear a red flower or to share a special dinner with her grandchildren.

My last visit with my mother before her stroke, she had flown to Colorado to visit me in November of 1998. With her, she brought Kerr jars of canned green beans (immediately and proudly displayed over the window in the Thanksgiving photograph below). Proudly, she said, “I learned to can green beans on my own! I really wish I had learned from your grandmother, though.” It was times like this that my mother would get somber. Her last memory would crop up.

“You know, the worst thing I remember?” she would start, “I was cleaning up Mama’s kitchen, and I opened the Crisco. There inside, I found her finger marks.”

I imagine them today. Deep crevices in the Crisco. Grandma used her hands when she cooked. She didn’t have all the special gadgets that we have today. She didn’t measure but learned from her mother that biscuits took “about this much.”

So today, I celebrate the beans. The last jar has moved with me from Colorado to Maryland to Virginia and now, Wisconsin. I doubt I will ever open them. They represent the love and the loss.

I never learned how to can, but I plan to try canning tomatoes this summer. (My mother did learn the art of canning tomatoes from her mother, but I did not learn from her.) Repeated mistakes.

I can make her pinto beans and ham hocks, and her cornbread.  Again, no fancy measuring devices. Just eye-balling it.

I do enjoy the quiet time in bed with my own children as we cuddle on Mother’s Day. Our tradition is a breakfast in bed, and I love that.

If you could wear that red flower on Sunday, I encourage you to learn from her, and I plan to teach my daughter the art of mothermade.

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