Grand I feel and
Radiant, each time an
Arrival occurs of a
New Baby, a type of
Diety, in my eyes, because at the
Moment of each birth I revel in the newness
Of being. And then, as a grand
Mom, I sink into thankfulness.
No matter our age.
I find that comforting.
This past week I flew across country to visit my mom. I have adult children now. I have grandchildren, but my mom waits on me as if I’m still her (young) child whom she must care for and nurture.
You know how tenderly we parents watch over our 3-year- old, our 11-year-old, our 16 and 20-year-old? Well, guess what? We do the same when they’re 29, and 45, and yes, even older.
“I bought a wheat bagel for your breakfast, just what you like,” my mom chirps at 8 a.m. our first morning. I don’t eat bagels. I munch on wheat toast with organic peanut butter and blueberry jam every morning, but I so appreciate the thought that I slice the (just thawed) bagel and search for the toaster.
“I don’t own a toaster,” Mom explains five minutes into my opening and closing cabinets.
“Oh.” I turn on the oven to Broil.
“I’ve never used Broil. Do you think it works?” Mom asks, her voice tinged with wonder and curiosity.
I never use Broil either, at least not for toasting bread, so we stand in front of the oven and wait for four minutes.
I open the door. Bagel’s still soft.
Mom rinses some blueberries and raspberries, throws a few on her cereal, and makes me a bowl. “Sit down and eat,” she demands. “I’ll watch the bagel.”
I ignore her and open the oven – bagel’s still soft.
She pours milk into her bowl and I order her: “Eat before your cereal gets mushy!” She ignores me, and we check the oven.
Bagel’s still soft.
Simultaneously, we hit the Broil button off, and then I select Bake at 450 degrees. “Really, Mom, start breakfast. I’ll be right there.”
Mom stares longingly at her now soggy shredded wheat waiting for her on the dining room table but says, “Let me get the peanut butter out for your bagel,” as if I can’t reach up to the cabinet and pull out the Jiffy jar.
I check the bagel – it’s actually getting a little toasted. Nonchalantly I ask, “Do you have some jam?” but inwardly kick myself as soon as the words are out of my mouth.
Crestfallen, she opens the refrigerator and responds, “How about Seville Orange Marmalade?”
“Um, no, I really don’t like marmalade.”
“How can you NOT like marmalade? Here, try it.”
I hate marmalade. Don’t know why, but I have since I was a kid. So like a kid, I shake my head no. I probably pout too.
Mom pulls out another jar. “Oh, here’s Apricot Preserves.”
“I really don’t…”
A spoon with some apricot preserves is suddenly swung in front of me, so I place a smidgen on my bagel and take one bite, making a face. “Nope, don’t like it. I’m fine with just peanut butter. Now, let’s eat.”
Her head is still in the refrigerator. “Aha! Red Current Jelly! Want to try that?”
“You’re kidding me, right?”
I walk to the table with my plate of, by now, cold toasted bagel. “Mom – come on.”
She makes a noise and produces another glass bottle from the refrigerator. “Look! Fig Butter. That could taste good…?”
“Why the heck do you have fig butter?”
She shrugs. “I bought it for a recipe. Umm, that could have been quite a while ago.”
I give her a peanut buttery smile. “Join me.” Her cereal is now indistinguishable from overcooked oatmeal that is dotted with some red and blue berries.
Giving up, my mom sits down at her place, only to pop up with an excited exclamation. She races back to the refrigerator and presents me with her find:
“CHERRY PIE JELLY!”
I groan, “Noooooooooooooo.”
I begin to laugh so hard I can’t take another bite of baked bagel.
How wonderful is it to have a mom who still treats you like her special little girl, the daughter she still wants to keep happy?
But still, I don’t touch the cherry pie jelly.
For the loved one of the runner.
Like, for a mom, for instance.
Six years ago my daughter trained for the Boston marathon. I watched her lose weight week by week as she increased her training miles. Her cheeks deepened in her face, her color reddened, matching her strawberry blonde hair. Her legs grew tauter and, yes, she even smiled more.
But I worried. How normal is it to get up at 4 a.m. and run for an hour in the dark and cold before the day begins? How safe is it to run after work at 5 p.m., in the New England dark cold of December and January, when the snow is hard and icy and the street lights dimmed by the freezing temperatures?
Oh yes, I worried like only a mother can.
But my daughter did not falter nor deter from her goal. She holds a deep stream of stubbornness within her – can’t for the life of me figure out where she got it.
I was proud of her, yet still cautious. By the last few weeks before Patriot’s Day – Marathon Day – her body was revolting, trembling in times of stillness. Her roommate had to rush her to the E.R. one night because she’d become too dehydrated.
But, there I stood on that Patriot’s Day, with my mom, a few yards from the finishing line on Boylston, ready to cheer our daughter/granddaughter four hours after she’d begun to run miles away from center city, early in the morning, with the thousands of other determined, strong, good-hearted men and women from around the world.
On Monday, I thought of that determination and resolve as I watched the horrifying scenes scrolled across our TV screens.
What has some wicked warped human being tried to pull asunder?
That day, six years ago, when I had cheered my daughter on to the end of her arduous run, I was lifted up myself. The thousands of people surrounding my mom and me were cheering too – not just for their loved ones, but for everyone who had placed their efforts and pains and promises right before us, with cramped legs, grimaced faces, but smiles wider than the world.
My soul was lifted that day – oh yes, as were all the souls who watched the miracle of the marathon. Even though we hadn’t pushed and pulled our bodies to their limits, we marveled and celebrated those who had. This celebration made us all one in celebrating the human spirit.
We Americans are known for our spirit – and watching the news on Monday, I realized why. Because we’re FREE. And in freedom, comes the ability to push and pull each other in our beliefs and in our struggles. Because we’re free, we’re open to celebrating the heritages and struggles and beliefs of others.
Because we’re free, we cheer on those who show an Olympian might to run 26.2 miles. And because we’re free, we cry with happiness as we watch those runners cross the finish line.
Because we’re free, no terror will stop our spirit. The spirit only thrives as it is strengthened.
So I salute those who train and run a marathon.
I salute those of us who cheer and wave and love all those who show us their marathon spirit.
A spirit that will never be pulled asunder.
How many spaghetti nights have I savored in my lifetime? I shudder to think of it, particularly during these low-carb days when pasta is a no no. Shaking my head, I avoid the thoughts in my head and reach for the ingredients from the shelf.
Why Spaghetti Night, I wonder as I start rolling the ground beef (lean), eggs, chopped onion, and parmesan cheese into meatballs. What would happen if instead I made, say, meatloaf, or God forbid, chicken cacciatore?
I smile as I begin to sauté the meatballs in the large pan. I suppose one doesn’t sauté meatballs, but I’m not frying them for heaven’s sake. Browning, that’s the word. I’m browning the meatballs as I envision the horrified reaction of my family if I served something other than spaghetti on a Monday night.
It all began with my guy, of course. Although he comes from an Irish mother and an Italian father, he only acknowledges the Italian genes. He may be tall, blonde, and blue-eyed, but he’s Italian, by God, and Italians love their spaghetti.
So one of the first nights our kids were old enough to sit down at the dinner table with us and enjoy a “family conference” – I think they were 2 and 4 years old – the man explained that real Italian families eat spaghetti at least once a week, so which day should we designate as Italian night?
The meatballs smell heavenly, and as the rain beats against the kitchen skylight I’m thankful that it’s Monday. I scoop the meatballs to a platter and add chopped green and red peppers to the pan, as well as a few mushrooms.
My 4-year-old daughter, that fateful day 25+ years ago, suggested that Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays would be good spaghetti nights. She loved her dad and figured more would be better. My man’s eyes lit up and he agreed, “Okay!”
I put my foot down and replied, “Mondays. That’s it.” Thus, Monday Spaghetti Night was created.
The vegetables are sautéed and I add a bottle of Newman’s sauce. I could make my own, but Paul’s family does such a good job and the proceeds go toward charity. I add the meatballs and let everything simmer for two hours. When my guy comes home, he opens the front door, takes in a big whiff and exclaims, “Monday night!”
The kids are out of college and living on their own now. It’s just the two of us. But Monday nights are still, and always will be, Spaghetti Night.
We sit out on the deck on a perfect late spring Saturday, drinking gallons of lemonade and munching on turkey subs. The three of us – my man, my son and I – have been working for hours in the garden planting, snipping, weeding, watering, and for the men, moving rocks.
The father and the adult son have little to say to each other most times – it’s that time in their lives when the father can no longer tell the son what to do, and the son is no longer willing to listen to anything the father suggests anyway. But when they take their shirts off in the hot sun and push and pull 200-pound rocks to remake a 100-year-old rock wall, then, then they love each other. No talk, just grunts, a curse now and then, and suddenly a spurt of laughter.
When the food is gone, my man goes back to rebuilding the stone wall, and my son and I sit quietly, companionably, not wanting to move from the warmth and relaxation.
“What are you up to, mom?” he asks suddenly. I never talk with him about what I’m doing. I’m too busy asking him about his life, his plans, his philosophy on life. I’m the questioner and the listener. But now he insists that I talk about me.
“Just the usual,” I reply. “Working, teaching, writing, not much, I guess.”
He looks at me with blue eyes as clear as the sky above and says, “You must be kidding.”
“What?” I ask.
I laugh. “This from the son who doesn’t read my stories.”
“Yes I do,” he retorts. “I read your stuff. Some of it.”
“Well, what should I write about?” I ask kiddingly. But he ponders the question seriously, thinking.
“Well, a book like Tuesdays with Morrie but about being a mother. You could write a great book about being a mother.”
I examine his face, one-day growth on it, intense eyes, no smirk.
He means it.
I want to cry. Instead, I hug my son, and he returns to the rocks.
And me? I return to my writing…