Mother… too formal, sounds as if I was carted off to boarding school or the product of a disciplinarian. No boarding school for me and definitely not beat enough as a child… look at the irreverent ass I am today. Mommy… too young, there was obviously a time I used this but seems to have been a period when I was still shitting my pants.1 Mom is the moniker for the woman who not only gave birth to me, but raised me… along with my dad… yes two parent home… and sent me out into the world as the partially developed adult I was at the time… about 22 years ago.
My sister, on Mother’s Day, wrote about my mom’s cooking… and her rare instances of cursing to describe how our mom affected her life. My sister doesn’t have the sentimental touch… but she is totally cognizant of how our mom affected her. I’m definitely more sentimental than her… touch of my dad.
Cooking is a great way to discuss my mom… cornbread, greens, mashed potatoes, fried chicken, fried rice with bologna,2 biscuits and gravy, fried pancakes, bacon, sausage, potato salad, barbecue, sweet tea… the kind that puckers your lips from sweetness… gooey syrup that most Southern literature types attempt to describe in printed word but so hopelessly fails… my mom’s SWEET tea is nothing more than sugar with a hint of tea flavor and golden hued. Fried bologna sandwiches with her special sauce (equal portions of ketchup and mayo… with a touch of mustard)… chocolate cake3…her cooking was rooted in her upbringing… cooking for her family was her touchstone.
My mom’s cooking is one of those instances that brings out the M-O-M in her. I truly believe that no matter how pissed she may be at me, she would bend over backwards to cook one of her artery-clogging meals for me if asked. “Never send a child to bed hungry” is something she said over and over to me growing up. She had been told that from her mom… a woman whose husband had been a coal miner in Alabama… hunger was not to be toyed with. My mom never sent me to bed hungry. My mom indulged my disgusting tastes… ketchup and bologna sandwiches (see a pattern with the whole bologna thing yet?), buttered bread and french dressing, and cherry Kool-Aid doused Frosted Flakes. Refined is not how one would describe my culinary habits. Through it all… she fed me. Indulgent in her own way… loving to the core.
Not only was her willingness to feed me (regardless of my bad tastes) a sign of her love, but my mom passed on a love for reading. Books and reading were a staple of my childhood… I have discussed this before. She reads romance novels… she devours them. As a child, she read to me from a Native American folk-lore book… this book’s presence in our home has never been sufficiently explained to me… but I remember no Dr. Seuss… I remember stories about long houses, tribal hunts, and the spirits of the first Americans… all truly phenomenal things considering we were also a family that attended an old-school Southern protestant church.
Along with food and books, my mom passed on the ability to laugh… at one’s self, others, situations, and life in general. Laughter and a sense of humor is what my mom possesses in spades… it could be sweet, it could be mischievous, it could be cutting… it was all laughter. Childhood memories may be filled with things easily forgotten… or willfully forgotten, but I am incapable of forgetting her cooking, her books, and her laughter.
She knows better, but she smokes… has for decades and decades. The smell of a cigarette is not pleasant unless one looks through the hazy cloud and sees the woman who spent her life cooking, reading, and laughing. She is who she is… few equal her zeal for these three simple things. Smoking may be one of her faults… and as a human she has her fair share… I’m a biased observer thus I ignore what others may identify and discuss… and I see things that others may ignore… easy to blame parents. She has never claimed to be faultless… I expect nothing more nor different from her.
My mom married young, moved around the world as an Army wife in both war and peace. She moved me and my sister while my dad was busy serving his country. My mom through it all saw to it that we had a home in every duplex and apartment the Army placed us in. Through it all, my mom cooked, read, and laughed… with each of these things she carried and supported my sister and me along.
If she had been (or was) perfect I would have been a sore disappointment to her. Instead my mom, with all her faults and abilities, is the woman who has never sent me to bed hungry, who will jump in the kitchen and cook a meal if asked, who never told me that I couldn’t read something, and who always laughed at herself the most. My mom is no more special than any other loving and caring mom… but now as an adult I know she raised me the best way she could and that was by loving me.
Told you I was the sappy one.
1. On a regular basis… don’t get me wrong, I have been known to shart my pants as an adult.
2. While in the Army, my parents had neighbors where the wife was Asian, probably Korean, who taught my mom how to make fried rice with a Southern flair. Bologna instead of pork, chicken, or beef. Arguably, bologna is the lips, ass, and toes of all those animals… thus you get an authentic fried rice dish that even the Alabama natives that were my parents could thoroughly enjoy… oh, my mom can also cook a very not Asian won ton!
3. If my mom gets a taste for chocolate cake… she will make one just to get a single piece… the rest of us are fortunate enough to get the rest.