My mother’s idea of a good Mother’s Day

I always feel a little ashamed as Mother’s Day approaches. There’s lots of talk on TV and in commercials about where to take mothers to brunch or dinner for a special experience, the kind of pampering a mother deserves on “her” day. I feel ashamed because I know my mother won’t be going out anywhere for a special meal. She always cooks her own Mother’s Day banquet.

In my own defense, I should say that we’ve been after my mother for years to let us take her out; or, at least, Diamondqueen and I could try to put a meal together (my lack of culinary talents notwithstanding) OR we could get take-out from a decent restaurant. Mom won’t have it. She says she LIKES to cook the Mother’s Day meal. And after all these years, I know she’s telling the truth. But it’s really hard to watch her put in on all that work any time, but especially on the celebratory day honoring her.

Yet, once again this year, my indomitable mother, at the age of 75, cooked a feast and served it as if part of the Mother’s Day tradition is for HER to treat everyone royally. She made chicken parmigiana and garlic bread. She claims this actually is an “easy” meal for her. She also baked two pies: a strawberry-rhubarb pie which has become, by her own designation, her traditional Mother’s Day dessert; and an apple pie for those who don’t like rhubarb’s tang. She did make the Italian bread and the two pies ahead of time, but still. And there’s no question of helping her prepare the meal on Sunday morning (I just get on her nerves by getting in her way); I supposed if Diamondqueen and I ganged up on her (I.e., tied her to a comfortable chair in the living room), we could do the clean-up, but Mom doesn’t seem to want that, either.

She often says, “As long as I can do it, I want to.” This is what she says at Thanksgiving, too, and when we have my birthday meal, for which she makes mini Beef Wellingtons. Mom has had two abdominal hernia surgeries in less than a year, the most recent just after St. Patrick’s Day. The Sunday before, as she served dinner, she said, “I guess it might be awhile before I feel up to cooking a whole meal on Sunday again.” Two weeks later she was back at it, on a slightly reduced scale, but she put a meal on the table for Diamondqueen and me and the kids. And it was delicious, of course,

I, too, want her to keep doing it as long as she’s able. There are the selfish reasons, of course. As I cut a forkful of her incredible pie crust, I had a quick flash of what life would be like someday without her pies. Without her cooking in general. She’s one of those cooks who puts her own spin on recipes. No one could duplicate her specialities; they might manage faint facsimiles. When she stops cooking, the loss will be enormous.

There is another less selfish reason I want her to keep cooking: It’s a part of her life force, an integral part of her feeling fit and alive, at one with the rhythm and flow of the active world. I know she can’t do it forever. And I’ll be watching for signs that we need to step in, to limit how much she does by herself, to negotiate what and how much we can contribute to these meals as well.

Fortunatley, Mom has a good attitude, and a realistic and pragmatic one. I know she knows that such “cutting back” won’t necessarily be a sign of waning; it will be a means for extending her participation because she’ll be sensibly rationing her energy and stamina. Maybe setting boundaries will mean that many more holidays with her prizewinning pies or bread or simply a much-loved entree, with the trimmings provided by helpers.

For now though, I’m grateful for another Mother’s Day spent the way Mom likes it best — cooking up a storm for the family gathered around her table.



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