December 5th was my Mom's 96th birthday.
My mother has dementia - the non-Alzheimer's kind. She managed, with the help of part time care givers, to stay at home for quite a few years after the memory loss began. She has been in a care facility for about 7 years now.
About 2 months ago she stopped eating normally and began sleeping almost all of the time. She is currently in hospice care. She could go on like this for months as long as she doesn't stop taking liquid.
Enough of the "sad" stuff.
A few weeks ago I opened my 1970's Betty Crocker Cookbook. The one that Mom got for me when I got my first apartment. On the roast meats page, taped into place with very yellowed scotch tape, are her notes on making a standing rib roast: "11 pound roast was just raw at 375 for 4 hours". And then the addendum in a different color ink- "9 pound roast was perfect at 375 for 3.5 hours". In the cookie section are her notes on how to "perfect" the traditional sugar cookie recipe (2 Tbsp additional sugar - so that you don't need frosting). If I open my recipe box, the wooden one that holds the old recipe cards, there is her handwritten recipe for "Carletta's Barbecue Chicken" - which started with a ketchup base and added brown sugar and vinegar. Done on the stove top and having no smoke flavor whatsoever, it was much loved by our family. That recipe box has now been supplanted by a looseleaf notebook because my recipes come off the internet rather than from friends and relatives, but do you think I'll ever get rid of it? Not on your life! There are little pieces of Mom in there.
Mom is all around me if I stop to consider:
In the closet where I still have her blue plaid Pendleton skirt (that I can still wear if I keep exercising regularly). That dang thing is almost 60 years old now. Dad gave it to her as a gift for giving birth to me - I guess that was the 1950's version of a "push present"...
In my jewelry box where I have the antique gold cross that she gave to me on my confirmation - that her mother had given to her.
In my living room book case where I have an entire ChildCraft series that she saved for my potential baby, should I some day decide to have one.
In my cabinet where I keep vases; in among them there is a cream colored antique decorated with ceramic ribbons that she got from a student long ago when she taught early elementary school before marriage. It is lovely with tulips in it.
And then there are the memories:
Birthday and Holiday dinners in a house with no formal dining room. Early in the morning, as Mom made fruit pies, Dad would move living room furniture up to their bedroom - two swivel chairs and the curved section of the couch so that we could fit a table for 12 into the space. And Mom would cook and cook and cook some more, all the while protesting that she "couldn't do this - it made her too nervous". And the dinners always came out beautifully.
One Thanksgiving there was "no room on the train". It was Standing Room Only all the way to Chicago. I called to say that I couldn't come unless my boyfriend drove me - but his room mate would be all alone then - could she fit two more at dinner? " Of course!" was the answer - we were 14 at the table and very crowded that year.
When I finally had a son and she came to visit, she brought home made "clay dough" with her on the flight. Red and green and requiring refrigeration, she and the 2 year old Stubble played with it for HOURS. I have the recipe that she brought with her laminated in my loose leaf cook book under the heading "other".
She taught me how to sew by helping me make Barbie clothes by hand.
She taught me to plant and care for a vegetable garden.
She taught me how to can tomatoes. Well, jar them actually.
She taught me how to get ANY stain out of ANYTHING - she was a genius at that.
She taught me so much and gave me so much.
I love you, Mom. Happy Birthday!