Through the Kitchen Window

When considering topics for a May column, it seemed natural to think of Mom and Mother’s Day. Mother’s Day is special to me. Not because of my own rocky, on again, off again relationship with my mother, but because of the wonderful relationship I’m lucky enough to have with my four children.

Seems a little contradictory to talk about a relationship with my kids when my mom and I don’t speak, but over the years I’ve learned that you can’t be responsible for how other people behave and sometimes, even when those “other people” are your relatives, you have to cut your losses.

The transition from parent – child to adult – adult isn’t always an easy one. Sometimes -- my mother’s and mine being a case in point -- that transition is never accomplished. You can only do so much then you have to give up. I believe it’s been that frustration that has helped me make my relationship with my children as good as it is. Because it was my mother’s wish to keep me under control as her child always, I think I went to great lengths to allow my children to grow and learn and become adults in their own right. They’ve done awesomely because they are four adults that, were they not already my children, I’d be proud to call my friends. In fact, I DO call them friends and share every aspect of my life with them now. I spend the best times just watching them together. And they know it and tease me often about how I get teary eyed even just going to the supermarket if they’re all with me, squabbling and carrying on like siblings should.

Because I know that mother-child relationships aren’t always easy but can sometimes be very rewarding, I approached some friends to dig deep down and come up with memories of mom that they would share. I asked that they come up with perhaps, a favourite recipe and an anecdote to go with it. I think even I was surprised at how deep they dug and what they were willing to share. I didn’t tell them it had to be a happy memory, and some of them aren’t. But they’re all small lessons, I think, in what’s best and brightest, and even hardest, about being mom.

The following are excerpts from what was shared with me. They come from a great group of people who have in common that they socialize and chat in a bulletin board community called The Jackson Cage. They also have in common that they opened their hearts to tell us about mom. I hope you get as much out of these life glimpses as I did. Bear in mind too, that in some cases, although we’ve been “together” on this board for a while now, these stories showed sides of people we didn’t even know were there.

This first one is from Mike.

    Gee...You guys are going to think I'm kidding but I'm not!
    I went to give my mother one of those crafty mother's day cards we use to make in school....
    I was all excited to give it to her cause I worked so hard on it....
    When I gave it to her she started to sob and cry really hard...
    I asked “Why are you so sad?”
    She then told me I was old enough to know now....know what I asked?
    That she was not my real mother....I was adopted.

    That is a mother's day memory that I will never forget.

Kevin is the Keeper of the Cage. He’s the “Jackson” behind the Jackson Cage. It’s through his diligence and expertise that we have a board to communicate with each other on. His story serves to remind us all -– yes, me too -– that sometimes life IS too short and no matter how much time we THINK we have, it’s not going to be enough time to say it all.

    My Mother and I fought our whole lives. I honestly hated her and we never got along. When I was 17 my Dad asked me to move out because it got so bad, so I did and never once moved back and I hated them both for it.

    In my mid to late 20's my Mom did everything she could do to make up for it. She would write me expressing how guilty she felt, apologizing and asking for forgiveness. I never once let her know I received any of those letters.

    When Nick was born she was thrilled and I was happy to share my little man with my parents. As soon as he could say "Night nanny" I had him call her and say it and she bawled (man I'm teary eyed right now).

    I could never tell my Mother I loved her because I was never sure I did. On Mothers day 2000, I had Nick call her and say Happy Mothers Day, I couldn't say it myself. The next day at age 52 she collapsed in the kitchen and never came to again.

    You think you have your whole life to make amends then something like this happens. I think it was about a year before I stopped breaking down anytime anywhere sobbing uncontrollably.

    There's a picture of Nick and I when he was a baby that was my Mom's favourite. On the back I wrote "When Nick was saying ‘I love you nanny’, that was really me saying ‘I love you mom’" and I put it in her hands and buried her with it.

This next story is from Diane. Diane is like the den mother of the board. She’s married and loving it and living in some remote part of Ontario (just kidding Diane) with her, as she puts it, hubba-hubba-hubby and her wonderful little girl. She often regales us with their exploits, and whatever else she intended for them, her posts always bring a smile to our faces. She often talks about her mom too, so it was nice to have her share her Mother’s Day story.

    My mother always hated baking, this is a hate we both share. But every Christmas time she would go into a baking frenzy. Batches and batches of peanut butter, chocolate chip, icing, jam, peanut butter ball cookies would be mass produced. Not only would she go cookie crazy but she would make her famous meat pies, usually about 2 or 3 dozen. She had to make so many pies because every year she would get an extra order from people who fell in love with them.

    My brother and I would hover around the kitchen like vultures on cookie baking days, anxiously checking each batch coming out of the oven for burnt or imperfect cookies. The burnt and imperfect cookies were fair game for us kids, but we would get a whack on the hand if we dared reach for the perfect ones. Even to this day I prefer my cookies slightly burnt.

    In order to keep the cookies nice and fresh for Christmas company, my Mom would freeze them in huge containers. One year my brother and I discovered how yummy frozen cookies were, yummmm so crunchy! Mom was very displeased with us that year, all the cookies had been pilfered with the exception of the ju-jube cookies and peanut butter balls (no cookie is worth a trip to the dentist!)

    My funniest Mother's Day memory happened when I was pretty young (about 6 or 7). My Dad took me shopping to buy a Mother's Day present. I was at an age where shiny, lacy and pretty things really got my attention. We somehow ended up in the Lingerie section of the store and I happened upon a beautiful shiny, lacy and pretty thing. Of course my Dad encouraged me to buy it. The look on my Mom's face when I presented her gift was priceless. I didn't realize until I was much older how funny it must have seemed to my Mom that I bought her a very sexy piece of pink satin lingerie with a lace trim. I don't even want to think of how good of a Mother's Day night my parents had that year! The next Mother's Day, my Grandma took me shopping!

tvradiofun is the handle James uses on our board. He’s the one we can count on for insightful commentary, but also the injection of humour when it’s needed.

    Oh man, where do I start this note to you, roxx?
    Me MOM!!
    Well, my parents are celebrating their 50th Wedding Anniversary in Hong Kong, New Zealand and Australia. I just received an Easter card from them in the mail. “Weather great sunny, warm on the beach and visiting friends.”

    This trip is a gift from my Dad to my Mom. They were in Australia four years ago and New Zealand two years ago this month.

    My mom was great to the whole family. When I was into stuff in my teen years and early university days. She found out accidentally by a surprise visit to campus, but she never hit the roof. This is just a little story of her younger days working in a hospital. These stories from my Mom have always been in my life. She's a great listener and now it’s my turn to listen and assist her these days. Whenever I was down or full of self-pity, she would always tell a very true story from working days. One of these still gets to me. It was about a beautiful black woman. My mom listened to her and helped her to find professional assistance. However; she never gave up hope or the human spirit for this woman.

    For you see, because this lady was black not white, she thought people hated her for being a black woman. It was so serious, this beautiful woman, to try and get rid of the black, had poured Ajax into the bathtub and laid in this chemical to try to change her skin to white.

    However; this is the Strength of my MOM. She listened, she cared, she helped in finding professional help for the young lady, she was a friend. My mother saved a life and gave this woman hope and a new found friend who Cared. Mom didn't let this woman fall through the system.

    My MOM. Is the realistic person. From her, I get the humor, listening skills, and helping people.

    Don't get me wrong, my Father is very much a caring man. However; I get the romantic and warrior side from my Dad. They taught me to look at people with open arms and not judge others but in these times don't be a fool either.

Janet’s avatar on our board is “Tigger – T – I – double guh – err” and she’s about as bouncy as her name sake. I think here we get a glimpse of what made Janet who she is.

    Well I actually have 2 moms. My mom and my aunt are identical twins - so genetically I have 2 moms and anytime my aunt is around, she's my mom for the day. My aunt spoils both of us and much thanks to her, I've been able to travel and see and experience a lot. I think I have more in common with my aunt strangely enough...same foods, same music (sort of) etc. As for recipes that I try to copy - not likely...I'm a better cook than those 2 put together! Not to say they can't cook, but my aunt needs a recipe and my mom cooks nothing but bland, bland, bland!

    Whenever I can, both of them make me cook! So no sharing of recipes, although my mom definitely makes a better roast than I do! My moms are great.

Her handle is AsianBBW and she brings to the board a breath of fresh air and irreverence that organizations such as ours need desperately all the time. She injects humour, understanding and good sense with her posts, and it’s obvious that all of these were hard won. She’s a survivor and by her example, helps those around her to survive as well. I had to edit her story for reasons of length, but it was the hardest edit I’ve ever done. I so wanted to leave it all there. I think I’ve captured the essence though.

    As for me, I don't have any recipes taught to me by my mother because both my parents told me I was fat since I was 8 or 9 years old (when I was merely a little chubby, not having lost the baby fat yet). They yelled at me not to eat - anything, even if it was healthy food, or a glass of water. I can still hear them yell "Lisa! What are you doing? Get out of the kitchen!!" (even if I was just walking through the kitchen) All the while coaxing, even begging, my brother, who was a picky eater with bowel problems, to eat - anything, junk food was all he would eat, so it was around all the time. Being of Japanese heritage, the boy is always treasured, where the girl is treated like a servant, so I would see him being adored, and given food, and so I equated food with love.

    So when I was 16, I got a part time job to make money of my own, and I bought food and hid it in my room, and binged until I gained more than 100 pounds within a year. They sent me to a shrink who made things worse for me and so I starved myself so I could stop seeing the quack. When I moved out on my own after university, I promptly gained all the weight back and more, and my weight has been a roller coaster of weight losses with greater gains afterwards.

    It was only after my dad died, that I was able to understand that his yelling at me was all about his hatred for his mother, and as I grew older I looked more like her. She was very heavy, so the more I weighed the more I looked like her, the more he hated me for it, and would yell. In time I also understood that my mother didn’t know any different but to do things the way he wanted them done.

    I don't want to come off as a victim, I am not, when I was in my teens, I was, I felt like a victim, and was angry, and only hurt myself with the anger. Now I am trying to learn from my mistakes and the mistakes of others, and hope for a better life where my parent's voices aren't echoing in my head.

This is CanadianBabe. Moms are important in our lives and it’s sad when they’re gone. But we can be glad for the time we had them and the memories we built with them.

    This is a sad/happy topic . . . wow.

    My mom lost her battle with cancer just over a year ago, and I don't think a day goes by that I don't think of her, nor do I think I've ever missed anyone as much.

    Anyhoo . . . mom made the best stuffing at Christmas, with just potatoes, onions, bread crumbs, egg, salt & pepper, and LOADS of summer savoury! I think it's an east coast thing, all that summer savoury. She'd always make loads of it, because we just could not get enough! It was so yummy! You could smell it cooking through the house . . . not the turkey, but the stuffing inside! Her cranberries rocked too! Boil them up with some sugar, set them overnight. Yum! This past Christmas (our first without her) I tried making these, but it just wasn't the same :( and the cranberries were WAY too tart!

    I should have paid more attention when she was making them, or even wrote it down. I'm sure with a few more years of practice I'll get it right!

    I could go on and on about moms good cookin', and boy could she cook! What a treat Christmas stuffing was though!

This next is from Mabel. She and I have in common that we are both the first born and both spoiled as children and neither of us had stellar relationships with “mom”.

    Like Jackson, I haven't had the most wonderful relationship with my mother. I'm her first born, yes . . . I was spoiled as a child but I sure didn't act like it.

    My favourite memories are before my sister was born, because then it was just Mom and I. Soon after my sister was born, I inherited two step brothers and a step father, so me and mom time was cut off! Soon after all that happened, Mom started to go through Menopause. Still to this day she hasn't gone to the doctor to look after herself. She's in denial about it all. Growing up with a mother who acts like she has a multiple personality disorder was tough. There are lots of ups and downs.

    Eventually I moved out, then moved far away, but now that I’m back I can say I have a better understanding of my Mom, and we have a much better relationship now then I ever thought I'd have with her.

    I'm diabetic so, my mother was extremely protective, to the point that I can actually REMEMBER when I had my first penny candy from the store on the corner. It was a week away from my 5th birthday! In grade 1, my mother started making Sugar Cookies for every single holiday or special occasion. Christmas, Easter, Halloween, my Birthday etc. She'd make dozens and dozens for my Class, the Teachers and anyone else! This carried on till grade 9, when she realized making cookies for high school classes was just not feasible! She carried on her tradition with my younger sister.

    Now, this recipe just doesn't work unless you like to get your hands messy! When that I think of it, my mother NEVER had a mixer. She had an electric beater but for cookies it was useless.

    Sugar Cookies

    • 1 1/2 cups sugar
    • 2/3 cup shortening or butter*
    • 2 eggs
    • 2 tablespoons milk
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 3 1/4 cups flour
    • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt

    Early in the day or the day before:

    In a large bowl cream the shortening and the sugar. Add the eggs, extract, and milk. In a medium bowl mix the dry ingredients. Add the dry ingredients to the large bowl. Mix it all together with your hands till it's all combined. With hands, shape dough into a ball. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours.

    Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly grease cookie sheets Roll 1/8 " to 1/4" thick. With floured cookie cutter, cut into shapes. Re-roll trimmings and cut.

    Place cookies 1/2 inch apart on cookie sheets. Bake 8 minutes or until very light brown. With pancake turner, remove cookies to racks; cool.

    To decorate you just take icing sugar and use food colouring. It's so much fun, kids love to decorate cookies!

    Mom made Easter cookies this year. They were in the shape of eggs, with all kinds of squiggly, polka-dot, designs. I love Mom!

    *I've found that if you want "sturdy and tasty" cookies you should use 1/2 shortening and 1/2 butter. Shortening makes cookies sturdy and butter makes them tasty.
    • Yields: About 6 dozen cookies
    • Preparation Time: This is a labor of love, so take the time!

Vienna is her handle, she’s Lisa to those who know her well. She lives in Montreal, coincidentally, that’s where my daughter lives too. When I read this story/tribute to her mom, I just wanted to reach out and hug her. And I think, when I’m next in Montreal, I’ll do just that!!!

    I lost her when I was 22. Too young for a daughter to be without maternal guidance.

    I miss seeing her sitting at the kitchen table through the mirror in the hallway when I'd get home from school.
    I miss the way she used to say "Hi Lisa" when I got home.
    I miss her thick Quebec accent when she spoke to me in English.
    I miss being in her sewing room with her while she worked on a pattern for one of my new outfits (She made my communion dress, confirmation dress, prom dress and probably would have made my wedding dress had she been around)
    I miss the way she used to say "LISA!!!!" when I did something wrong.
    I miss seeing her sleep in my single bed and me on the floor while she comforted me when I went through my first heartbreak.
    I miss arguing with her.
    I miss laughing with her.
    I miss crying with her.
    I miss her.

    Sponge Cake

    • 1 cup of sugar
    • 1 cup of oil
    • 6 eggs
    • 3 teaspoons of magic powder
    • Approx. 2 1/2 cups of flour
    • 1 teaspoon of vanilla

    Mix the oil, sugar & eggs until well beaten. Add in the flour slowly, then the magic powder & vanilla. Pour in a pan and cook at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. If you want to improvise, leave a little batter in your bowl and add Quik or cocoa powder to it ... and then pour over vanilla batter and swirl for marble result.

    She was a better seamstress than a cook, but this is the cake that I remember her so well for. My name is Lisa -- and I love my mom.

This Mother’s Day, call your mom and tell her how much you love her. Better yet, don’t wait till Mother’s Day, do it today!!!

To all my “Jackson Cage” friends for their contributions, to Ronda for her patience, as always, with my missed deadlines, but most of all, to my children, who have made me the person I am today . . . Thank You.

And Happy Mother’s Day, whether you’re a mother, a daughter, a sister, or a friend, this day is for you!!! TTFN