Tomorrow is my mom's 80th birthday. Seriously. Eighty. Doesn't that just blow you away? Imagine how much history she's seen, how much life she's lived...how much coffee she's consumed!
My mom wasn't a superstar. She was not a career woman...unless you appropriately call raising 11 kids a career! Good lord! It seems more like an insurmountable task. One that, literally, took a lifetime.
Anyway, she stayed home most days. She'd get us all onto the bus for school then start a batch of bread because we could go through bread like nobody's business. I remember whining about having to take homemade bread sandwiches to school -- instead of the nice, neat thin bread other kids had. Now I'd pay good money for just one slice.
While the bread was rising, she'd start laundry. Every day. With the wringer washer. We whine about having to toss things into an automatic then into a dryer. But imagine doing the laundry of 11 kids every day, then hanging in on a line -- even in the winter? Imagine how much she spent on "soap powder" -- which was what we called it back then.
We probably kept the Tide executives in silk shirts.
Over the years she became one of the best cooks in the world. Seriously, she can take nothing and make it into dinner. Her gravy is to die for and what she can do with a dumpling would make most chefs jealous.
But we also had "invented" foods ... like Klepka. (Which is Slovak, I'm guessing, for fried bread dough.) She'd take bread dough, stretch it until it was the size of an apple fritter, and put it in hot grease for a few seconds. Then we'd either slather it with butter or roll it in sugar.
For those of you who are wondering ... yes, I did have a bit of extra weight before I got married and moved out to my own [bad] cooking. Because delicious food is frequently fattening food.
But, oh, it was worth it!
My mom wasn't one of those women who needed to go shopping every Saturday. I'm guessing she didn't have time. She didn't do lunch or call her friends to gossip. She liked True Detective magazines and Peppermint Patties. And she loved to read. In the summer, I'd walk to the Bookmobile that came around every other week and get books for both of us to read. When she was done with hers, she'd read mine. Which was why it never surprised me to discover that as many adults read young adult books as teenagers. True readers will love any great book.
I credit my mom and her love of reading with my own love of books and the career that I wouldn't have were it not for her love of reading.
I also credit her for showing me that life isn't lived in the grand moments when you're speaking at a conference or chatting with New York Times bestsellers over a glass of wine in a four-star restaurant.
Life is lived in simple moments, enjoying simple pleasures, like a Peppermint Patty or a glossy new magazine.
Work is necessary. She didn't whine every morning that she had to bake bread and do as much laundry as a the local dry cleaner. She simply got to it. Which is why I get up every morning and put on coffee and turn on the computer.
And family is love. Husbands are to be cherished. Kids hugged. Babies coddled. And everybody else enjoyed. Even now we play cards a lot (used to be Pinochle or rummy now it's UNO) and Yahtzee...because you don't have to be chatting or drinking to have a good time.
But most of all, you have to be yourself. If God put you on a farm with eleven kids and a dreamer husband...enjoy it. Don't try to be somebody else. Don't worry what anyone says.
Your days are your days. Your life is your life.
And that's what I've learned in my fifty-something years of being my mother's daughter.
Some days I'm sure my husband wishes I'd learned the cooking part of my mom's life a little better, but most days I'm sure he's glad I also decided just to be who I am...
And enjoy the ride.