My Mother’s Daughter

 

It's not nagging; it's love!

Early in the morning, on the day my mother left this earth, she called me. It was not to tell me the secret of life, or ooze with gushy words over my greatness at being her daughter; it was to remind me to go to the financial aid office to make sure my paperwork for my student loan had been processed for the next semester. While she certainly remembered to end the conversation with an “I love you,” her call was a purposeful prompt for me to get things done. This wasn’t because she found me too incompetent to take care of my own shizz, because thanks to her, I’d been handling my own shizz for quite some time. Her final reminder was an example of who she was; a woman who endlessly worried about her children. I am SO my mother’s daughter.

On a daily basis you can hear me say such phrases as: “Did you eat lunch; what did you have?” “You have that paper due on the 11th; are you making note cards?” “Be careful at that blind turn on your way to school!” Do I think my daughters wouldn’t eat lunch, turn assignments in on time, or crash their cars without my input? Certainly not! I know, from my own experience, that after my mother’s death, I turned in papers in a timely manner, unplugged the coffee maker before leaving the house, and that I always remembered to not buy cheap bras, “because they’ll make your boobs sag!” Oh, but I missed her unnecessary input, and I still hear her voice at the crux of any decision I make.

Yes, I’m a serious nag, and during my daughter’s teen years, my advice and questioning was often met with eye rolls. Now my ceaseless guidance, in most cases, evokes a smile, because they know. They know that my badgering is one of the ways that I stay enmeshed in their lives. It’s one of the silly ways that I say “I love you,” and show that I care so deeply about them that I want even the most miniscule details of their lives to go smoothly. Even in my mother’s last hours, she was tangled up in the routines of my life. She was giving me orders that voiced her love and expectations of me. I am SO much my mother’s daughter.

Thanks, Mom!

Do you nag your children unnecessarily? Was, or is, your mom a nag?

 

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That’s the Power of Processed Cheese, Baby!

Yum! Creamy, dreamy queso goodness!

I live near one of those draft house cinemas; the wonderful kind that keeps the beer or wine flowing while you eat delicious treats and enjoy your movie. I’d been thinking a lot about my approaching viewing of the last Harry Potter movie, and thinking about Harry made me think of the draft house theater, which in turn caused me to think of my very favorite snack served there; queso and chips. Soon, my thoughts turned to cravings, and yesterday I was forced to begin my quest to find the components that made up the queso of my dreams. Luckily, my quest was short lived and went something like this:

Me: (to my friend Michelle) Hey, what do you think is in the draft house’s queso?

Michelle: I’m pretty sure it’s just Rotel and Velveeta…Oh! And those sliced pickled jalapenos.

Me: That sounds too simple.

Michelle: I’m pretty sure that’s it. Trust me.

Since Michelle had no reason to give me a bogus queso recipe, I made my way to the store to look for the three magic ingredients.

The can of Rotel and the glass jar of jalapenos had no effect on me as I placed them in my basket and made my way to the cheese aisle. It didn’t take long for me to find the familiar yellow rectangle with its accustomed red font screaming “Velveeta” on each

Processed never tasted so good!

side and boasting a $5.99 price for 32 ounces of pseudo cheesy goodness. I realized as I placed it in my cart that my last visitation with this product had been sometime in the late 1970s or early ‘80s.

Velveeta was the processed cheese product of my childhood. I have fond lunchtime memories of creamy tomato soup accompanied by toasty grilled cheese sandwiches filled with melty Velveeta. As my seven, ten, or fifteen year-old self dunked a triangle of sandwich into my soup, I never once considered Velveeta’s composition. It could have been crafted of yellow Play-Doh and dog hair and I would have eaten it because it tasted so darned good.

Once I made entrance into the exciting worlds of adulthood and motherhood, I began to actually consider what I was putting into the bodies of myself and my little minions. Words like preservatives, additives or processed had no place in our pantry or fridge, and my love affair with Velveeta fell by the wayside—until last night when I dipped my first tortilla chip into its creamy goodness. It was then I realized how much I’d missed seeing its quadrilateral form in the door of my refrigerator. And when my youngest daughter asked me what was in the dip, I couldn’t resist introducing her to the remaining quivering block of cheese product residing in its classic foil wrapper. Her taste testing led to a discussion of bubbling mac and cheese and burgers fresh from the grill with gooey cheese product dripping down their sides. It brought back memories of backyard “picnics” by my plastic kiddie pool and packed lunches with thick slices of Velveeta on whole wheat with mustard. Soon my daughter and I were making plans for a lunch of grilled cheese and tomato soup.

I’ve heard our sense of smell evokes our strongest memories, but I have to believe that taste runs a strong second. The foods of our childhood are time machines, linking us to the warm comforting memories of our past. Though its label may feature words that I’ve tried to eliminate from our food vocabulary, Velveeta’s ability to catapult me to simpler times may just make it a permanent fixture on my refrigerator shelf.

What are some foods of your childhood that take you back in time?

Darling daughter delves into delightful dip!

Classic Rotel and Velveeta Queso Dip

1- 10 oz. can of Rotel Diced Tomatoes and Green Chilies (do not drain)

1- 16 oz. package of Velveeta cut into 1 inch cubes

Heat together on a medium setting, stirring constantly, until creamy

Garnish with pickled jalapenos and enjoy with your favorite tortilla chips!

Day 14: 31 Days of Blogging Honesty

 

 

 

 

Day # 14 Question: The most disgusting food I’ve ever eaten was…

Ah, this question prompts me to tell you the tale of when I met prank phone call guy’s parents, my first set of in-laws. After PPCG (“prank phone call guy” from here on) had been dating for about a month, he decided that I should meet his mom and dad. Despite my silly interior, I’ve found that I am the type of girl that you take home to mom. So, dinner invitations were extended to me and I soon found myself sitting at the head of the table in their formal dining room.

Before I go any further in this story, it is important that I share with you my history of food up to that point. My mother was extremely picky about what she fed to us. I grew up in a very rural area where we had a ginormous, pesticide-free vegetable garden, an orchard of apple trees, a sprinkling of peach and pear trees, and a lovely bunch of chickens. All of our vegetables and fruits were either eaten fresh, or canned or frozen for the rest of the year by my mother and grandmother. The meat that we ate, aside from our chickens, came from the farm that was less than a mile from my house. My parents only bought a few things from the grocery store like dairy products, cereal, which was never the sweetened variety, and the components for baking bread. When our garden wasn’t producing mom would purchase some produce, but she would treat it as poison until she had thoroughly washed it.

You can imagine that my transition from eating a diet of whole, preservative free food, to eating food from a college cafeteria was a rough one. While I was thrilled to have the option of sweetened cereal, and ate my weight in Fruit Loops my first semester, my stomach was very sensitive to most of the foods offered. To avoid sudden attacks of intestinal distress, (AKA diarrhea), I found myself sticking to very safe options in the cafeteria; mainly foods that were in their whole form and not mixed into some sort of gloppy casserole.

After struggling to eat cafeteria food for so long, I was thrilled at the prospect of a home-cooked meal when PPCG’s mom invited me to dinner. There I sat at the head of the table where everyone could get a proper look at the girl who had stolen their son or brother’s heart. PPCG’s mom had prepared quite a spread of baked chicken, au gratin potatoes, green beans, and rolls. PPCGs mom was one of those who prepared everyone’s plate for them. First, she served the men, which would have NEVER gone down in my household! Then she served me. Before she spooned an item on my plate she asked me if I liked it. When she got to the au gratin potatoes, I told her they were one of my favorites, so she gave me an extra-large helping. After grace was said, we proceeded to chow down. The chicken was great. The beans were perfectly steamed. The rolls were delicious. The au gratin potatoes, however, were HORRIBLE. There was no creamy dreamy cheese sauce like my own mother made, and certainly no mellow, earthy taste from the potatoes. This dish tasted like garbage. It tasted as if it had been hatefully crafted by the Devil in the kitchen of Hell. As I politely choked down this orange glob that seemed to be growing on my plate, PPCG’s mother, asked me if I liked them. For a moment I wondered if she was being facetious. I wondered if I had been seated at the head of the table as part of a girlfriend poisoning ritual. I expected that if I peeked under the table that I would see her dainty cloven hoof impatiently tapping, waiting for me to die. “They’re great!” I said enthusiastically as I suffered another mouthful. “Well, believe it or not they’re from a boxed mix, but I think they’re just as good as homemade,” she replied. Relief swept over me. She wasn’t trying to kill me; she had merely made a bad cooking choice. I pretended to adjust the strap of my sandal and checked her feet. No cloven hooves! I was safe.

Apparently NOT made in Hell by the Devil. Who knew?

Day 12: 31 Days of Blogging Honesty

 

 

 

 

Day 12 — I was just honored by my peers and family. I most likely I got the award because I…

This question is truly very coincidental because I actually was honored today by a member of my family. Today, my oldest daughter graduated from college with a BS in Biology and Chemistry. As you can imagine, I was bursting with pride and shedding a few tears as I watched my first born reach another milestone with great success. After a beautiful, but very long ceremony, my lovely blond daughter stood before me a college graduate. As we were about to leave the gym she hugged and kissed me and placed her gold, satin graduation stole across my shoulders. “Read the inside, Mom,” she said, with happy tears glistening in her green eyes. This is what the inside said:

Dear Mom,

I am presenting you with the stole of gratitude because you are the one person who has made the biggest impact on my life. You are the number one reason that I stand before you today as a college graduate, on my way to medical school. Because of all of your love and sacrifice, I am moving on to the next chapter of my life with confidence and the comfort of knowing that you’ll always be there for me. I cannot express the amount of thanks that I have for all that you have done. You are a wonderful mom and will always be my best friend!! I LOVE you so much!

Love,

Your Daughter

When I graduated from college, I was seven months pregnant with my youngest daughter, and my eldest, who penned this note, was only two. I was unaware of the tradition of presenting the stole of gratitude. Had my own mother been alive at the time of my college graduation, I would have certainly presented my stole to her, and written a similar note. My daughter’s presentation to me was an unexpected honor. It made me realize what an incredible gift today was.

Hope everyone is having a wonderful weekend! I’m off to bed!

Day 2: 31 Days of Blogging Honesty

 

 

 

 

 

Question #2:  The most expensive item I have ever stolen is…

I wish I had a fabulously scandalous answer for this question, but I don’t. Unfortunately, for the sake of this topic, my life of crime is pretty limited. I’ve accidently put ink pens in my purse after I’ve signed credit card receipts. I once took a maxi-pad from a nearly full box that someone left in the cabinet of the ladies room at my old workplace (hey, it was an emergency), but I replaced it a week later. I’m typically a pretty honest person, and the only theft story I have is when I took a Tootsie Roll from a little mom-n-pop grocery store when I was five. It’s funny, I don’t actually remember the taking part of this tale, but I clearly remember the giving back part.

Chocolate Goodness!

The slow tearing sound of the waxed paper covering alerted my mother that I was up to something in the back seat of our old 1964 Buick Skylark. This was well before 5 year-olds were required to be strapped into pricey booster seats, or even fancy seatbelts, so I was probably sprawled out on my stomach across the seat as I tried to unwrap my secret acquisition as slowly as possible. I’d hoped to have my favorite chewy, chocolaty treat stuck between the crevices of my back teeth before my mother realized that I had clandestinely purloined it from the bottom shelf of the penny candy section of Mike’s Grocery. As I was about to peel off the last noisy bit of paper that confirmed my status as a Tootsie Roll thief, my mother, who was about to pull out of the parking lot, asked the familiar question, “What are you up to back there?” “Nothing,” I nervously assured her as I popped the candy into my mouth paper and all.

My mother never accepted “Nothing” as an answer from me. I was, after all, the kid who dug a muddy, four foot hole in the back of our perfectly landscaped yard while she was inside having tea with her friends from the garden club. I was the kid who, while at church last Sunday, had made a loud hooting sound, during silent prayer, just to hear it echo off of the endlessly high ceilings. I was also the kid who usually had a frowny face on the “Exhibits proper classroom behavior” section of my kindergarten progress report, so when I gave the answer of “Nothing,” my mother always investigated. Before I had time to swallow, she had turned around and pried the glommy goody from my mouth and wrapped it in a tissue from her purse. After a stern lecture on shoplifting, that included the threat of jail time, she placed the wet package in my small hand with a disappointed expression and quietly said, “You took this from Mike, now you have to return it, and apologize.” Mike, the store’s owner was a hulk of a man, whose white store apron usually had a bit of blood on it because he mostly worked behind the meat counter. I was scared of Mike and begged my mother to let me return the Tootsie Roll to his kindly wife Betty, but she wouldn’t budge.

I’ll never forget the fear jolting through my tiny body as my little legs trudged unwillingly back to the meat counter, nor will I disremember the humiliation of admitting my wrongdoing. I do remember Mike thanking me both for my honesty and for the penny, borrowed from my mother, which I handed over to him as compensation for my misdeed. I also recall that Mike didn’t seem as scary to me in subsequent visits to his store. In fact, he usually made a point of saying hello to me by name. I was never sure whether this was because he considered me a new found little friend, or because he wanted me to know that he was keeping an eye on me. So, as a reformed shoplifter, I’ll admit that the monetary value of the most expensive thing I’ve ever stolen was one penny; however the life lesson value was priceless!

You'd better keep your hands off of me, kids!

What Comes Next

I’ve been busy having my midlife crisis. The times a certainly are a changin’ at my house. My oldest daughter, to whom I have been attached cord, breast, and always heart, is graduating from our state’s university in less than a month. In July, she’ll move five hours away to attend medical school. My purely sweet youngest daughter, who needed me so much when she was ill, is now a thriving university student who is making her natural break from home and talking marriage with her long-time boyfriend. While I’m sad that the hands-on mothering stage of my life is coming to a close, I’m not complaining. In fact, I’m in complete awe of both of them, and in total wonderment of the natural progression of something that I didn’t experience. They are easing gently into adulthood without skipping any steps.

My entrance into adulthood felt abrupt. Its evolution seemed to move from my mother being sick, to my mother dying, to my father selling our family home and moving in with his girlfriend. The fact that I was a junior in college without a place to go home to on weekends, holidays and summers didn’t faze my father who was of the old school mindset of “18 and out.” While my life certainly wasn’t as difficult as the lives of some, I found myself thrust into adulthood with an incomplete copy of life’s survival manual.

Now as my daughters grow past the age when I became motherless, I marvel at what comes next. I experience with them, and through them, what my mother and I didn’t. I will see them walk across stages to get diplomas and possibly down aisles to get married. I will be privy to their life plans, listen to their worries, and guide them in solving their problems. They will never wonder where they will spend a holiday, or feel a mournful longing when a coworker speaks of “going back home” for the weekend.

As I write this I am sad, sad for my mother who so wanted me, and sad for the girl I was when I lost her. Yet, in my gloom I feel the distinct joy than one can only feel when they have been given a gift most though-out and meaningful. It is the gift of watching my daughters reach adulthood whole and prepared. The gift of watching the apron strings between us gently thin from love and wear, and dangle as ties between mother and child eventually must. It is the gift of watching them stand on the precipice of adulthood confident that their first steps won’t be into a swirling abyss of the unknown. But mostly, it’s the gift of knowing that if a page is missing from their life’s survival manual, they have the skills to rewrite it, and if they are unsure of the correct words, I’m just a phone call away.

Memories of my Grandmother

 I got up early Sunday morning to spend the day with my grandmother who is in a nursing home.  It was her 95th birthday and I’ve always thought it wonderful that she celebrates growing another year older on the first day of spring.  When I was a little girl, Grandmother was never the huggy, snuggly cookie baking kind of grandma that you see on the Hallmark Channel.  In a time period where most grandmothers had spent their life taking care of only a family and home, my grandmother had been a shrewd businesswoman.   In addition to owning a slew of rental properties on the beach in Florida, she and my grandfather owned a bustling motel in a busy tourist town.  Back then the housekeeping staff was given Sunday as their day off and my mom, dad, and baby brother would help my grandparents clean the rooms as the guests checked out. Although I was only five when I first began helping, I was allowed to help dry the tubs and sinks, after my mom or dad scrubbed them.  I was also given the honor of placing a miniature bar of Ivory Soap in the soap dish on the sink and in the bathtub.  At five, nothing seemed more perfect to me than those tiny, deliciously clean smelling soap bars.  I would put my whole face in the cardboard box that held them and breathe in their sanitary goodness.  Each week I would beg Grandmother to let me take one home to put in my bathroom.  My mother would always intervene and tell me no. I thought I must have been the only kid in the world who broke out in a rash when they washed with Ivory Soap.  My reward for helping would usually be a glass bottle of orange soda from the motel’s Coke machine.  My granddad would let me put the fifteen cents in.  I would open the frosty glass door and grip the cold neck of the bottle, anxious for the metal clasps to release it.  Then I popped it open using the bottle opener on the side of the machine.  My mother didn’t really like me drinking soda.  I was one of those unfortunates raised on a very strict diet.   Luckily, mom bent her rule once a week as long as I promised to sit down while drinking it.  According to her, walking around with a glass soda bottle was dangerous. If I fell with a pop bottle in my mouth it could knock my teeth out, cut my lips beyond recognition, and possibly render me blind from the shards of glass that were sure to bounce from the pavement into my eyes.  I was a rule follower, so I sat on the wooden bench on the sidewalk outside of the lobby swinging my short legs and drinking every drop of my payment while I imagined how hard my life would be if I suffered a soda bottle injury.

 After the cleaning was finished we would stay for Sunday evening dinner.  Grandmother was an amazing cook, and she would always have the main dish simmering as we cleaned rooms so it would be easy to get dinner finished up when we were done.   I loved her roast beef the best.  She would cook it onions, celery and peppers,  slowly on the stove top until it was so tender you could cut it with a fork.  She’d serve it with creamy mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, creamed corn, and coleslaw.  It was a meal so delectable that I could have eaten it every day.  During dinner the adults would talk while my brother and I listened and politely ate our food.  This was a Sunday ritual that lasted throughout my childhood until my grandfather passed away and Grandmother sold the motel and moved into a little yellow house a few miles away.  Once this happened we spent Sunday afternoons helping to weed my grandmother’s garden, or doing other chores around her house while she made dinner.

As I grew up, Grandmother and I didn’t always see eye-to-eye.  She didn’t approve of the music I listened to, nor did she like the fact that I decided to stop piano lessons to be in plays.  I was also pretty certain that she liked my brother far better than me just because he was a boy and because he stuck with his piano lessons. I once asked my very affectionate mom why Grandmother didn’t seem to like me. She assured me that Grandmother loved me very much, but that she just wasn’t very good about expressing emotions.   There were times, though that we got along just fine.  She painstakingly taught me how to cook; a skill that I took to like a fish to water.  My remaining family swears that my mashed potatoes taste exactly like hers.  When my mother, her daughter, became terminally ill and I wanted to quit college to stay home and care for her, she dropped everything and moved into our home to serve as a round-the-clock nurse.  “A woman can’t be without a college education,” she insisted.  Two years later, as staunchly religious as she was, she didn’t judge me when I confessed to being pregnant a few months before I married my first husband.  She simply helped me plan my wedding in her calm steady way.

Now that she’s 95, she doesn’t remember who I am, and when she does have a small glimpse of memory she’ll ask how my long-dead mother is doing.  I always swallow hard to suppress the ache and, say, “fine.”  I’m afraid telling her that she’s gone could be like hearing it for the first time.  Now, my grandmother is far more affectionate when I visit her.  She hugs me hard and holds my hand.  The lines on her face that were once pinched with all of the worries that running several businesses can cause, have softened.  She is childlike and happy.  In her own world, she laughs and sings to herself  When we showed her the brightly frosted birthday cake made just for her, she reached out and took a piece with her hands, gleefully devouring each bite with gusto and licking the frosting from her fingers.  It was a pure moment, without rules, just the way life should sometimes be.