Last week's Fridge Friday post was probably inappropriate. I shouldn't have carried on as if life was normal...although we all know nobody really has a "normal" life. I should have taken the time to acknowledge and thank you all for the outpouring of condolences on the loss of my mother. The cards, emails, calls, tweets, people who stopped by, those who brought food, those who gave hugs, those who sent flowers, and those that silently offered thoughts and prayers...everyone and everything was/is appreciated. I am surrounded by incredible people. Thank you.
I don't know exactly how to describe my relationship with my mother. Tumultuous would indicate lots of screaming and yelling. That wasn't it. Indifferent would mean that we didn't care. We did. Rocky? Arms-length? Discordant? Irregular? I don't know. We are a family of strong opinions, fierce independence, and cold silence. We all battle with our own demons. Sometimes it is graceful; more often, it is not.
My mother was a proud, strong woman who raised 7 children with limited means. She had many talents and immersed herself totally into whatever the project of the moment might be. Compulsive is the term that comes to mind. I see that in myself sometimes. I have to remind myself that even though I may like those linen napkins at Target, there is no need to buy them in all the colors. There is no need to for me to save all of my Cooking Light magazines. I can allow someone else to help with things and don't have to grasp (the illusion of) control so tightly. There are times that I am my mother in ways that I don't like at all.
Aside from desserts, I don't remember my mother ever cooking from a recipe. She had some trusted cookbooks that were older than me and were sometimes referred to briefly. Like almost every other homemaker, she clipped random recipes from newspapers and magazines, and even went through a time when she collected the Pillsbury pamphlet-style cookbooks that tempt shoppers at the grocery store checkouts. But, mostly, my mother just cooked. There was always healthy and hearty food on our table. No matter how limited finances might have been, never did we go hungry.
As I grew old enough to help with chores other than cleaning, laundry, and dishes, a few meal-time duties fell to me, but, overall, not many. When I left home just weeks after my 18th birthday, I could do something that passed as cooking. I could prepare a meal, but it wouldn't be anything beyond some simple boiling, frying, and rudimentary baking. My father had been a meat and potatoes man with a limited palate. This is all that I knew.
It was in an interview about this blog that I stated that I couldn't cook when I got married. My mother was hurt. Her pride was stunned that I would insult her in such a way as to tell Keloland's viewing audience that she hadn't taught me to cook. She responded as my family does, with silence.
Over the years, we had endured and overcome other silences, and I tried not to let it bother me. I tried to enjoy the five minutes of fame from the personal interest story and use the positive feedback to improve the blog...but, in the back of my mind lived my mother's hurt and angry silence.
It took a family tragedy for that silence to end. My father died. There was a call from my brother in the middle of night telling me my father was at the hospital. The first words my mother spoke to break the silence were, "He didn't make it."
The loss of my father uncovered the reality of my mother's health issues. The family rallied to help care for her and help her adjust to being without her companion of over 50 years. Knowing all too well the strength of my mother's pride and the sting she could produce when it was wounded, I was tentative with my offers. When I made suggestions to aid with Mom's new dietary needs, I was told that others had the issue under control. It was understood that food and cooking were still sore subjects if they involved me. I tried not to step on any toes and took the toe stompings that were dealt as just the way my family operates. We are not close, and crisis wouldn't change that.
I accepted that while my friends and blog readers consider food to be "my thing", it would never be something that my mother or family would enjoy with me. I was OK with it. Not everyone has to enjoy or approve of the things that I do. Not even my family.
Last month, after battling health issues for far too long, my mother passed away. I had spoken with her just days before and shared a very calming and fulfilling conversation. In fact, after I had hung up the phone, I told Hubs that it seemed that I had finally done something right. My mom seemed happy. It was good. We were good.
A few weeks later, while helping my siblings sort a few of the many possessions that my mother had accumulated, one of my sisters told me that Mom had directed them that I was to get first choice of any of her cookbooks. My. Mother. Left. Her. Cookbooks. To. Me. In a family that holds back emotions, this choked me up. Maybe I am wrong, but I choose to see it as a silent acknowledgement of my cooking and this blog. The "I am proud of you" that crashed through the fierce silences. It was good. We are good.