Tuesday, January 8, 2008

How long must we mourn?

My mother died five years ago. She was 52. I was 28. It was not enough time to learn all that I wanted to learn from her, but enough time to learn a lot of things. I still repeat her mantra of “sugar, shortening, dry ingredients” whenever I make cookies. I think of her every time I change my sheets because she taught me how to make a hospital corner. (Although I still can’t remember which way I’m supposed to tuck the sheet).


Our friends invited us over for Christmas Eve dinner. (They are always doing nice things for us). I volunteered to bring a jello salad. My husband wanted to know why I would volunteer for jello. He doesn’t like jello and I never make it. I volunteered because, growing up, my Mom used to make a jello salad for Christmas Eve dinner. It was red and green and had a layer of pineapple, cream cheese and whipped cream in the middle. It did look rather festive. My Mom would serve it on a bed of shredded lettuce and we’d always make fun of her for it. We aren’t a family that is into the art of presentation.


I bought all the things I thought I’d need but when I went to make it I couldn’t find the recipe. I called my sister in Georgia: she didn’t have it. I checked my files again: nothing. I searched online: nothing like what my Mom had made. I began to wonder if the recipe had died with my mother. It wouldn’t have mattered much: we only ever had it at Christmas and, even then, it was met with mixed enthusiasm. But, oh, must we mourn that loss, too? The loss of the recipe for Ribbon Jello Salad? Just when we thought we were done mourning?


I finally called my Dad. He looked through my Mom’s recipe file. It was a sweet thing for him to do. It was sort of like the night I called him at 3:00 am because my daughter had a high fever. Somehow I thought he could help. He couldn’t, but he’d wanted to. Maybe that’s all that mattered.


He did find the recipe, though. “It calls for marshmallows,” he said. “I remember her making it with marshmallows once,” he said, “but she didn’t like it with marshmallows. It’s better without them.” It sounded like he misses her. We all do, even if we don’t particularly miss her Ribbon Jello Salad.

Incidentally, mine didn't work out at all.


Hey it's Amy Shipp said...

Oh what a sweet post! Thank you for sharing it. My mother passed away just over 3 years ago, and I think of her everyday. I am happy that I got her recipe box. Even tho (ask Lynne!) I don't even use recipies... I am glad you found her recipe for the Jello desert, it sounds pretty. :)

Lynne's Somewhat Invented Life said...

Thank you for this lovely story, for sharing what families are all about. Thank you for being such a great writer and for inspiring me to try to be better.

THANK YOU FOR THE SOCKS AND THE LOTION! I have already worn them! They worked like a dream and I had warm dreams because of them. And because of you. You're the best! (And you know I NEVER use exclamation points so you know I mean it.)

Damama T said...

Your post brought tears. My mother died at the age of 51 when I was 27. I lost, but have never found, her lemon meringue pie recipe. I've gone through all her books but it just vanished. I SO understand the feeling of losing her over and over. With each new life experience I mourn her absence, wisdom, and love. With each lose of one of her siblings, I mourn her lose all over again. You see, my mother died in 1984. And while we eventually learn to get on with life, there are always moments when the loss is made fresh again.

I encourage you to read the book Motherless Daughters and other similar books. It is wonderfully soothing to read about other women's experiences and know that we are not alone in the struggle to sometimes just keep moving forward.

Peace and Blessings,
Damama T

Dragonstar said...

My mother died 17 days after her 53rd birthday, 2 months before my 15th. This was in 1959. She never met my husband. She never held my babies. She died just as I was beginning to appreciate her as a person.

I'll always miss her, but I see her face on my second daughter, and so many of her attitudes as well. I miss her, but she'll never be gone from my heart - she shaped whatever I am today.