Here are some more things I remember about Mother. As I wrote last week, I wrote these in a notebook as I rode the Metro North train home from Manhattan a few years ago. It was a sad time in my life, and writing seemed to help. I only wish I had written more while the memories were fresher.
14. When we lived in town, Mother had flower beds with four o’clocks in back of the house. The blossoms only opened in the evening and closed at dark. She had huge beds of tiger lilies in the back yard in summer, and every color of iris in the spring.
15. She kept every drawing or story I ever gave her. She kept every letter my brother wrote from the Air Force. She kept the ugly pottery owl with a flat head that I made in 7th grade art class. She kept boxes and boxes of photos and an old family Bible.
16. She liked to talk on the phone a lot. When she lived in town she spent hours on the phone every day, it seemed. It was a sad day when my sister Glenda had to take the phone out of Mother’s room in the nursing home. Mother couldn’t hear it anymore and had forgotten how to dial. She and Aunt Elsie always talked every day until Mother moved to be near Glenda. Then they talked once a week, until Mother couldn’t hear anymore. That was one of the first things the strokes took away.
17. Mother was a good, old-fashioned Southern cook: fried chicken, boiled country ham, vegetables cooked down with fat meat, creamed corn (a little bit stuck to the skillet, the way Daddy liked it), stewed tomatoes, cornbread. Her biscuits were not reliable. She made wonderful pies: chocolate (no meringue, because my sister Juanita didn’t like it), chess, pecan. Cakes were chancy things and might or might not fall. She also liked recipes from her Sunday school class members or Good Housekeeping, especially Jello salads. When Daddy had his first heart attack her cooking changed completely. No more sausage and biscuits or fatback—only as a treat.
I was thinking of Mother’s fried chicken recipe this week. It turns out her method was just featured in Southern Living recently, and they increased the minutes you cook it because chickens are so much larger now. Her recipe is in this blog’s archives.
Enjoy the week, and enjoy Memorial Day weekend!