Peas Under the Plate

I owe my mother apologies for many things done or not done over the years, but I believe high on the list should be a hearty, “I’m sorry” for the repeated utterance of the following three little words:

“What’s for supper?”

Every night the same inquisition. Every night the same stares of anticipation. Every night the same dread. What’s for supper?

My Mom faced this eternal (infernal) question each night from four children, a husband and various and sundry pets who passed through our way for thirty years or so. Bless her little heart. I wonder if she, like I now, wanted to slap a frying pan upside someone’s head when those three little words came out?

Mom made do. I admire that and wish I had more of her “do”. She made supper and we ate it (with the exception of my younger brother Ernst, who subsisted on peanut butter & jelly sandwiches for 18 years, but that is another story). We had a meat, a veggie and a starch every supper. She made it work, whether we deserved it or not.

When we asked “what’s for supper?” I’m sure there were plenty of turned up noses at times, but the menu she worked out is what we got. There was no ditching the kitchen and heading off to the nearest fast food establishment. Going out was for special occasions and with dinner guests numbering from four to six most of the time, it was rather expensive, too.

We lived on my Dad’s one salary. Mom made it work. Some nights we had Spam patties as the meat source, other nights we had round steak that had been split in half lengthwise then pounded out to stretch. There were other nights of fried chicken or pork chops and mashed potatoes (not applesauce).  Looking back those must have been the times my parents were more flush, but it didn’t matter, we partook of what we had, which is not to say we ate it all – no, I remember clearly trying to hide peas under the rim of my plate and I’ve heard stories of my brother Stavro covertly placing items behind the refrigerator.

Supper was the time the family regrouped. All were called by the rallying cry, “supper’s ready”! Off went the t.v., down went the books, the telephone conversation was cut short, play was halted and we all came together.

We had marvelous conversations and learned of each other’s daily lives. We told stories, passed on new knowledge, played word games and made plans. Occasionally, we would fight, but most of the time we laughed, a lot. Supper became less about the food and more about the time spent together. It was something I think we took too much for granted. Another apology owed to Mom.

Maybe that’s the “do” I’m missing. Even in the worst of times, Mom found something to make for us so that we could sit together and eat. She may have wanted to conk each one of  us on the head for asking what’s for supper, but she didn’t and we survived to ask another day.

Perhaps I need to take the message more to heart. The t.v. needs to go off, apps turned off, Yoda called in from play and make supper the focus it should be, our family reconnection. Stretched paychecks and crossed schedules need to take a backseat to the preparation of what’s for supper. Nothing says I can’t resent the question, but everything says I can make it mean something else.

Thank you, Mom.

Nom de Plume

I seem to have an issue with revealing true names here.  Except for my Aunts Tricia and Gloria and myself, I don’t think I referenced anyone’s real name.  And Tricia doesn’t count because only her immediate family calls her that.

My partner, Bashert on the other hand has no qualms at all about not protecting the innocent on her blog. (Bashert’s not her real name – she actually has a beautiful name to be debuted at a later date – but the meaning of bashert fits our lives completely.)

Maybe for me its still the private part of me not wanting to quite put it all out there yet.

Or it could be that I still succumb to our family trait of inventing alternate names for people. I’m not talking diminutives or family words for things.

If Bashert and I can’t remember someone’s name or haven’t been introduced to someone yet, we come up with a mnemonic to use for ourselves as reference points.

Some are just practical observation, others are based on observation and behaviors or circumstance.

We used have a woman who lived in our townhouse complex who drove this beat up, powder-blue, Volvo station wagon.  We could hear the thing coming a mile away, so she became “Volvo Lady”.

We used to have another set of neighbors, who were from China.  The husband spoke English to a point, except when he got excited.  He and his wife had a second baby and when we asked what they had he replied, “It’s a Larry.”  So, from then on out the poor baby was called “The Larry”.

We’ve had a couple of site managers involved with our complex who haven’t been exactly stellar in carrying out their managerial duties. One guy who wouldn’t answer his phone unless it was to tell you not to call, was dubbed “The Nazi”.  His blonde Arian appearance may have had something to do with that one as well.

The second manager expected a tip every time he did any kind of service.  He was knighted as “Master Bates”.

There was a woman in a class I was taking, that had to be one of the whitest people I had ever seen and I’m not talking in the cultural sense, no she was just this side of albino.  So, obviously she became “White Lady”.  I didn’t say we were too inventive.

The nurse who had such an issue with my partner and I when our son was born became “Nurse Ratchet”.

The technician who tortured Bashert with the mammography machine was the “Mammogram Nazi”.  (Nazi becomes a good universal.)

My Dad’s mother who was quite large, became “Great Big Grandma” or “Great Big” after my nephew as a small boy got confused with the relationship great-grandmother.   At the same time my mother, his grandmother hence forth became “Little Grandma”.  He still calls her Little.

One of my daughter’s less savory boyfriends – “The Troll”.

Then there was the embarrassing incident with Bashert and I that involved “The Guy on the Ladder”. Again, not inventive, but practical.

The name calling is not always confined to people.

When we were in college, Bashert had the entire Art Department calling the sculpture lab “downstairs”.  The sculpture labs were down the hill across campus from the the 2D labs – made sense.  I think its still called that to this day.

When I was going through my horrid, nasty nine year divorce, my mother kept a file at her house with all pertinent information labeled as “Roosevelt”.  My ex (referred to in writing as AH – you figure that one out) left on D-Day.

One of my favorites was invented by Mom. She refers to that American treasure, Wal-Mart as the SOD.  Shop of the Damned.  Go ahead, deny that one.

So, until the day when I choose or have permission to let the world know what their true identities are we shall remain known as Bashert (my beautiful, meant to be partner), Yoda (our son) and Neneé (our daughter) and our cast of yet unnamed others.

And be on the watch – you never know when you may be called a name.

Don’t drop your cone

I confess.  I’m selfish.

Sometimes I like a treat all to myself.

I blame my mother.

My mother is a champion speed ice cream eater.  She can consume an ice cream cone in under a minute.  You could get brain freeze just watching her.

One may ask why she would develop this particular talent.  Easy.

My mother had four children in a nine year span and she likes ice cream.

And as we all know, mom’s are somehow contractually obligated to release their cones to the child who drops their ice cream cone.

She blames her mother.

Seems that when my mom was in grade school, her mother would wait for the Krispy Kreme man to deliver to the store across the street from their house.  When the fresh doughnuts were delivered, Mama would run across and buy three for a dime.

And eat them all.

I guess there are some genetics that can’t be denied.

Mom’s Face

My Mom has had the same face her entire life.

You know how you can look at someone’s baby pictures and never know they were the same person?  Not my mom.

If you were to take a series of infant images and their corresponding adult images, how many do you think you could match up – infant face to adult face?  I most likely couldn’t match my own or my daughter’s if I wasn’t familiar with them (my son is a different story, but he’s not far enough away from babyhood just yet).

I am grateful that my great grandmother, Mar – she added the ‘r’ so that people would be sure to pronounce her name as Mah, why she thought Ma wouldn’t be sufficient, I don’t know – anyway, I’m grateful that she had a love for and instilled that love of photography in her children.  We have a treasure trove of encapsulated history because of it and that’s how we know that Mom’s face has always been the same.

We have portrait of Mom as a very little girl taken in the 1930’s, where the photographer carefully arranged her seated on a bench holding a wooden toy. Its colourized, Mom’s eyes are not blue and I don’t think her cheeks were ever that pink, but it is definitely her face.

The underlying structure stays the same whether she is plump toddler, skinny girl in a tap dance recital costume, a free spirit on the beach or the grandmother of eight.  Deep set grey-green eyes, with a longish nose and a mouth that shows off her high cheek bones when she smiles. She has one crooked tooth, the right one next to the front teeth, whatever that’s called.  I think it adds to the genuine quality of her smile.

Her adolescent photos often remind me of Anne Frank, but I’m guessing that’s the time frame just as so many kids always seem to look alike.  Her face was surrounded by jet black hair in her youth, now its a beautiful, soft white.

Sometimes the face is stern, sometimes on purpose – ask my younger brother about the time he ran home and hid all the spatulas and wooden spoons – and sometimes not, she’s just deep in thought. Mostly it shows a twinkle that pokes fun at the world. But with any expression, Mom always looks out recognizable to the world.

Either of my brothers, my sister or I would do anything for that face.  Each of us in turn has told her that she should come live with us if anything (turn around three times and spit) should happen to our father. She always replies with, “Don’t worry about it, I’m okay with going in a home.  Just be sure to check on me, a lot.” As if.

Today I celebrate that face, that wonderfully consistent face. Happy Birthday, Mom!

“We turn not older with years, but newer every day.” – Emily Dickinson.