By Bill Derby
Mom was a great cook. Her generation cooked nearly every meal for their families. Once in a while dad was able to fix himself a sardine sandwich which stunk up the house. It fascinated me to watch him use the special key attached to the can to peel back the metal top exposing headless fish packaged head to toe.
Judy laughed about her dad too who had never, ever fixed himself a sandwich. He expected breakfast, lunch and dinner waiting on the table as if by magic.
I think my mom’s WW-II generation housewives were great cooks. They had to be since cooking was part of being a good housewife and raising a house full of kids. We expected good food too.
Back in those days the norm was to “eat everything on your plate” and we couldn’t leave the table until all food was consumed. If not, we heard, “just think about all those starving kids in China!”
Many nights I would be sitting alone at the kitchen table staring at a plate full of cooked carrots, green beans and a well-done pork chop. According to mom, pork could be a deadly meat if it wasn’t cooked through and through. She surely killed every deadly microbe because her pork chops were tough as shoe leather.
I discovered a trick to end my kitchen table confinement. Since our dog was not allowed in the house it was a problem to dispose of my over-cooked pork chop. Mom’s washing machine was in the room next to our kitchen. I discovered I could throw pieces of meat behind the washing machine joining the clean plate club and ending my kitchen penalty.
“Hey Mom. I’m finished eating. Yep, I ate all my pork chop,” I lied.
After about a month the washing machine area started to smell and I was caught red-handed in a food fib. What do you expect from a seven-year old?
Dad soon expressed his interest in my story-telling by visiting his favorite Forsythia bush while shedding the blooms into a nice “switch.” I would guess kids today have not experienced the welts produced by the lovely Forsythia bush. To this day I still don’t like that bush and its little yellow blooms.
Mom did pass along some of her cooking skills to me. I loved her desserts including her home-made pies. She let me cook my first cherry pie. I liked to watch her and also my grandmothers cook. All were experts. I still have my maternal grandmother’s cookbook with many recipes dating back to the very early 1900’s, all neatly handwritten.
Mom taught me a few life lessons along the way too. Her favorite saying, and I’m sure passed down from her mother, was, “Those who don’t listen, have to suffer.” Many times I didn’t listen and did suffer.
Once as a little tyke I was sipping on a small bottled coke, the best kind ever. I was also wearing my favorite high-heeled cowboy boots.
“Hey mom, I’m going outside on the front lawn,” I declared.
“Son, with those cowboy boots on, you will trip and fall breaking the bottle,” she warned. She was busy cooking and didn’t notice I went outside.
It wasn’t long before her prediction came true. I tripped on my slightly over-sized favorite cowboy boots, breaking the coke bottle and putting a nice slice in my knee from the broken glass. I rushed inside bleeding and crying.
“Those who don’t listen, have to suffer,” she exclaimed, bandaging my knee. The cut needed stitches but in those days you just put on a bandage and tape with a big scar as the result. I can still see the scar today, a reminder.
To this very day I remember that event like it was yesterday and can hear her words. But, as moms always do, she consoled me hugging away my tears knowing her little boy had learned a lesson. “Listen to your mother, for there are worse things ahead in life.”
Many years later as she lay seriously ill in the hospital after her second brain hemorrhage and being unable to speak for weeks, she turned her head looking me in the eye, holding my hand and softly spoke, “You have been a wonderful son.”
Those words were the last she ever spoke to me as her brain function declined. They were words every son longs to hear from his mother. I hear them often.
Mother’s Day is coming next month. Give your mom something nice.