Mothers and Daughers

Cookie Day

christmas-cookies

“Gotta stop at the market on my way home and pick up some more butter,” my officemate announced.  “The cookie factory is open for business.”

She was in the midst of a chopped pecan, chocolate chip, sanding sugar, pre-Christmas baking frenzy.  I’ve been there myself many times.  But I’m sitting it out this year.  Because in a little over a week, I’ll be home for Christmas, enjoying my mother’s sweet and delicate holiday treats.

Every year, about a week before Christmas, my mother (picture an Italian-American Martha Stewart) puts on her apron and her favorite Christmas music (cue up Dean Martin singing “Baby It’s Cold Outside”) and embarks on a baking marathon known in our family as “Cookie Day.”

Her butter cookies are made with a cookie press and decorated with chocolate or brightly colored sugar.  Her almond crescents are rolled in confectioner’s sugar while they’re still hot.  The thumbprint raspberry linzers and Italian sesame seed cookies are especially labor intensive.  And the pizzelle are painstakingly made one at a time on the stovetop.

As a teenager, I loved assisting her in this holiday tradition as she prepared the various types of dough, then decorated, and baked the cookies.  Once we got into a rhythm, there was no stopping us.  The moment a tray came out of the oven, the next one went in.  Carefully, the oven-hot cookies were set on the parchment paper lined kitchen table to properly cool. When we ran out of space on the kitchen table, I got the idea of using the ironing board, so we lined it with parchment paper, and placed the overflow cookies there.

Since he retired, my dad helps out on Cookie Day.  At least he calls it helping.  But my mother’s on to him.  She makes him whistle, so he can’t sample too many of the homemade Christmas treats.

red poppy

Standard
Mothers and Daughers

When Mother and Daughter Become Friends

mother-and-daugherWhen I was a child, the constant dialogue I had with my mother took the form of instruction: wash your hands, eat your carrots, look both ways before you step off the school bus.  All else was in some way a teaching moment, like when I learned how to tell time, or asked what makes the leaves turn color in the fall.

The nature of our conversations shifted when I had something to offer in return.  And by the time I was a ‘tween I could tell she enjoyed my company because she’d pick me up from school and take me with her on errands she could’ve done earlier in the day without me.  I remember going shopping with her when she needed a new dress for a cousin’s wedding.  And it was fun.

Once I was in high school, I’d come to know her not only as my mother, but also as a person.  When we sat at the kitchen table sharing a pot of tea, she would tell me stories about her childhood or her courtship with my father.  We’d often discuss a movie we’d seen or a current event.  She’d want to know my opinion.  And I could make her laugh.

I knew I was an adult when she began asking me for advice. At first it was about the menu for one of her dinner parties.  Then she wanted my input on choosing new wallpaper.  But it mattered most when she, as an only child, was the sole caregiver to her aging mother.

Despite living 200 miles apart, not a day goes by that we don’t speak on the phone.  And we Skype every Sunday.  Maybe my mother and I are unusually close, but I don’t think we’re such an oddity.  Because when I look at the women I know – from every race and ethnic group, scattered across different regions of the country, spanning several generations – there’s often a common thread: the profoundly intimate relationship between mothers and daughters.  And it’s not just because they are mother and daughter – it’s because they are friends.red poppy

Standard
Life Lessons, Mothers and Daughers

Shades of Gray

My mom’s about to celebrate a birthday.  How old is she?  If you ask, she’ll gladly reveal her age.

Mom and me 1961

Married young, she had her children right away, so my mom was always the youngest of all my friends’ mothers.  However, she inherited the “prematurely gray” gene prevalent on her mother’s side of the family, and was coloring her hair by her mid-twenties.

Funny, now the young women that age are dyeing their hair “granny gray” to get the same look.

My mother remained patient as I, an indecisive teenager, was shopping in the junior department in Macy’s Herald Square.  The way the florescent lights caught the top of her head, my mother’s hair no longer looked dark brown, but a rather unnatural shade of olive green.

“Mom!” I gasped. “Your hair looks really strange.”

She peered into a mirror and blurted out, “EXPLETIVE! It’s oxidized!”

A few weeks later, instead of getting her roots touched up, she began wearing a wide headband to cover the gray.  Then she skipped a haircut.  There was a method to this madness, I just couldn’t figure out what it was.

When she finally went to the hairdresser, I accompanied her.  “Cut off all the dark brown, the red highlights, and that other color that defies a name!” she instructed her hairdresser.  “I don’t care how short it is.  I’m ready to be gray!”  Mind you, she was still only in her forties.

Luckily, it was the new wave 1980’s and short asymmetrical punk hair styles were in vogue.  Her new look was chic and dramatic.  She looked fabulous.  She still does.

The “prematurely gray” gene skipped over me.  But as soon as I graduated from a subtle sprinkling of “icicles” to looking as if I’d been house painting and doing a messy job of it, out came the bottle of hair dye.  Like any other addiction, it’s become a nasty habit.  Lately I’ve been thinking about quitting.

Birthday GirlMy mother has always been comfortable in her own skin.  She serves as a model for me on how to age gracefully.

Thanks Mom…

And Happy 77th Birthday!

red poppy

Standard
Mothers and Daughers

Shopping With My Mother

“What other colors does it come in?”

This is how my mother shops for clothing.  When she sees something she likes – be it a blouse, or a particular style of pants, not to mention shoes – she’ll buy it in several different colors.  It’s insanity, I know, but now she’s even got me doing it.  Yes, all I’ve learned about shopping, I’ve learned from my mother.

shopping spree

You’d think living over two hundred miles apart would’ve put a crimp in our shopping expeditions, but it hasn’t.  When I’m home for the weekend, our shopping marathons lead us to fine stores everywhere.  And when she’s visiting me, we often drive up to the outlets in Kittery for a full day of shopping in the great state of Maine.

Then there’s the long distance shopping… I’ll find a voice mail message when I get home at night: “I got something for you today.  It’ll arrive tomorrow by FED EX.”

I’ll call back to tell her, “Thanks Mom, but you didn’t have to do that.”

“I know, but it was so perfect for you – and they were just giving it away.”

“Why’d you FED EX it? I’m coming home in two weeks.”

“I couldn’t wait – I wanted you to have it now.”

When I offer to pay for said item, she flatly refuses.  And I don’t have the heart to point out to her that whatever she supposedly saved on the sale, she’s more than spent on the FED EX charge.

Her other big rationalization for committing what can only be described as consumer carnage is that she wasn’t even looking for this latest treasure.  “I fell over it!” she’ll insist.

She frequents craft fairs, not only to support the local artists, but also to pick up some truly unique, one-of-a-kind items.  She’ll present me with a stunning ceramic bowl or piece of stained glass that’s been stuffed into a shopping bag with bubble wrap and wads of tissue paper.  When I innocently comment, “You didn’t get a box?” she’ll reply, “Box, schmox – he would only take cash – it was tough goin’.”

Despite all the shopping, one of my mother’s greatest gifts to me is not something she purchased, but rather something she taught me.  How to always, always, be generous.

red poppy

Standard