It was easy to call my stepmother “Mom” and to love her like one. Like many children of deceased parents, I remember her fondly as unique, giving and loving. But beyond that, she had the unique ability to mix with any level of society from our country relatives to dignitaries in her native New York. She had a wicked sense of humor and was the least stressed out person I ever met. Crying babies and yapping puppies never bothered her, and in our household, there were many of both. Maybe it was her career that made her so patient. She was a nurse, but whatever the source, she had patience in spades.
Mom loved cartoons, discovering treasures at the thrift store and the occasional liqueur with dessert. (She was also a confident woman who once embarrassed a local pastor by showing up to help paint the church on church workday wearing a tube top and blue jeans.) She also loved to cook but I’ll admit, growing up I would rather have eaten fast food like the rest of my friends than her trademark, “something in a pot.” Now, I miss her eggplant Parmesan and spinach frittatas every day. I miss her chatting, mixing and baking.
Recently, I remembered that I had her recipe box and hoped that I would find her secret recipe for her calzones. It was in a box of her things that I barely looked at, only because if I did look, I’d have to admit, truly admit that she was gone. There it was, a rusty, red metal box stuffed full of paper recipes. Seeing her careful handwriting made me cry but I am glad I opened the box. Besides finding her calzone recipe, I also find a link to the past. Besides my mother’s recipes I also found some of my grandmother’s! Best of all, on the back of each card was a small note about where the recipe came from, who she served it to and any changes she made. (Mom loved tinkering with recipes.)
I found recipes from my sister and some that Mom’s friends had shared but sadly there were none from me. Truthfully, I hadn’t been that interested in her recipe box before she left but now it is one of my proudest possessions. It reminds me of all the good days, all the times she’d call us together for holidays, all the times she’d share her treasured dishes with an ungrateful audience.
This year, she has given us another gift. Instead of all Mom’s kids going their separate ways this year, she has once again inspired us to come together to make more memories. I’ve photocopies and handed out her recipes to everyone who plans to attend, asking them to bring with them a “Carolann” dish. It’s so like her to find some way to keep us together, to herd the cats, as she would say laughingly. I love you Mom. Happy Mother’s Day. Thank you for one last gift.