My mom Mary Lou died seventeen years ago next Sunday. More and more I find myself thinking of her, digging through my memories to find moments that bring her alive for me. In honor of my mom on this Mother’s Day, I’d like to share some of them with you.
At the top of the list is the friendly feud at dinnertime between my mom and dad over who knows what.
My parents, sister, grandmother and I were seated at the kitchen table, chowing down on a roast of some sort, (After all these years I have no idea if it was roast beef, chicken or pork, but it really doesn’t matter; all that matters is that the roast was accompanied by mashed potatoes and gravy.)
My mom and dad were sitting across from each other and they got into a dispute about something, I wasn’t paying much attention because it was a friendly fight and I wasn’t worried it might develop into something worse. They were going back and forth in teasing voices about something and each was determined to win the debate. My father resorted to facts, which my mother considered unfair, because they proved my dad was right.
Facts or not, my mom was not about to be beaten. A mischievous look on her face, she scooped up a spoonful of mashed potatoes and gravy and, holding the spoon by the end of the handle, smiled sweetly at my dad. Then she flicked the spoon and a potatoand-gravy missile zinged across the table and landed with a splat across my father’s face.
My dad looked my mom in disbelief as a glob of potatoes and gravy dripped from his face. A moment later his astonished expression gave way to a grin and soon everyone at the table was roaring in laughter. I don’t think I ever saw my mom laugh so hard.
When we were kids, my mom used to take me and my sister into the basement, one after the other, to wash our hair in the huge stationary tubs we had down there. We think she did it to take out her frustrations on us.
The hair-washing was actually enjoyable: My mom would douse our hair with water, add VO5 shampoo and massage it into our scalp. The almosthot water she rinsed us with used to send tingles down my spine, it felt so good.
Then came the part we hated, when she’d dry our hair. It’s hard to put into words, but my mom would rub a towel so hard and so fast that our heads bobbed around on our neck, coming perilously close to snapping. At least that’s how it felt. She would manage to get our hair almost completely dry with nothing more than a towel and her technique. It felt like she put our heads against a pair of buffing wheels that spun in opposite directions.
My neck cracks whenever I think about it.
My mom didn’t cook often usually my grandmother would prepare dinner while my parents were at work — but she was an excellent cook. I’d love to taste her homemade spaghetti sauce once more; today I usually just dump sauce out of a bottle. Most of the things she made I’ve been able to duplicate, as I’m a decent chef myself, but the one I’ve never mastered was her flank steak roll-up. I’ve read recipes and tried them, but she did something different than anything I’ve read, because it tasted way better.
What I remember is that she took flank steak, bacon and green peppers, I believe — it’s been 35 years since I’ve had it— rolled it all up and broiled it. The result was the greatest thing I’d ever tasted in my life. When I returned home for Christmas during my first year of college, I walked into the house and smelled flank steak. She’d knew I loved it and had it sitting hot on the table for my arrival.
That moment touched me and has stayed with me so much that it’s impossible not to tear up when thinking about it.
I remember my mom taking me to the movies on Saturday afternoons while my dad was working to see ones she wanted to see, even if I was a bit young for them at the time. I never minded. There probably were more, but the three I remember are the James Bond flick “Thunderball” “American Graffiti” and “Getaway” with Steve McQueen and Ali McGraw.
Best of all, she took me to see Elvis in the very early ‘70s. My mom had tons of Elvis albums and had a lifelong crush on him.
I remember watching Sunday afternoon Elvis marathons on WKYCTV3 Channel 3 with my mom while munching on popcorn and chips.I think I saw all of his early movies.
There are so many more things I recalled about my mom while writing this column. I had forgotten so much.
I’m glad I remembered.
Happy Mother’s Day mom, and to all moms everywhere!