My Grandmother’s Cookware

These were the pots that my  mom remembers from her childhood;  filled with delicious soups or stews when she walked home to Clarendon Road on her school lunch break.
Her mom alw20160522_114913ays had something delicious and perfectly prepared for her and her sister every day.
I was helping her sort through belongings stored in the house she was finally ready to put on the market as part of her downsizing. When we unpacked a box in her cedar closet, we found these treasured vessels which seemed overflowing with memories.
We put them aside and kept focused on our work; but later, when we sat down to sip tea and plan our evening, those memories, and the emotions that mom had been burying all day in her determination to get the house ready for sale, came flooding back.
With a voice strained  from choking back tears, she explained that she wanted to cook one more meal in these pots to pay tribute to her mother for all those fond memories of delicious meals.
The proposed menu was not what I would have liked for dinner, but I recognized the need to bring closure to this and that she also needed to do it with a family member. This outdated cookware was the source of her comfort food. So we purchased a nice Cabernet Sauvignon and enjoyed some cheese and crackers while she started the brown rice in her mother’s cast iron, plated pot. Next, she sauteed the chicken tenders in the frying pan  and, lastly, tossed in the snow peas for a balanced meal.
During the course of this process, the rice burned and stuck to the bottom and she realized the handles were hazardously loose. Is it possible that her mother- my grandmother-  had mastered these difficult cooking techniques so that she never burned anything? Or did she compensate in a way that children would never notice?
At any rate,  it was not about the food, it was the company. Ultimately, we shared one last meal which brought a fine conclusion to this honored cookware. We sat at the table with a gorgeous bouquet of lilacs and celebrated all we had accomplished during the day.
Thanks for the wonderful memories!
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themiddlegeneration

“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.”

~Cicero (106 BC- 43 BC)
Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer, political theorist, and Roman constitutionalist.

The new year is here, the holidays have passed, the gifts have been received and, for all we know, the world may be coming to an end. I guess this is as good a time as any to talk about gratitude. According to Cicero, gratitude is the root of all other human values. Why, then, does it come more naturally to some than to others? We teach young children to say “please” and “thank you”; but is that really enough to impress upon them the real meaning of appreciation? From the piles of presents mine opened during Christmas, you would have thought there would be nothing but smiles. As adults, we all know to express appreciation whether we love the gift or not; but…

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The Mind-Body Image Discrepancy

I am steadily improving after my knee surgery this week. I shifted from crutches to a cane and anticipate soon being able to walk on my own. Yesterday, I ventured out of the house for the first time to go grocery shopping with my husband. I felt proud to be able to walk up and down the aisles and even carry one object at a time to place in the cart. The looks or avoidance I got from my fellow shoppers, however, made me very aware of the discrepancy between how we look to others and how we feel.

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Out for a brief stroll on a beautiful day!

To people who don’t know me and understand that this is only a temporary setback, I must look like the victim of a car accident and may even be permanently handicapped. To my family and friends, I am a brave, resilient woman making an amazing recovery from an injury that started four months ago. Most of the time, though, it doesn’t take anything remarkable to cause this mind-body discrepancy, just age. Therefore, I would like to share this short tribute to a special person whom I only knew as an old man, but who obviously saw himself much differently.

When I first met Harry, he was already approaching the ripe old age of 90. He didn’t move as quickly as his grandsons, but his mind was still sharp and he played a good game of chess. I was invited to go camping with “the boys” that summer.

The Boys

The Boys

Canoe

We spent six days paddling down river, setting up tents, fishing and swimming and Grandpa Harry certainly pulled his share of the work. Looking back, I feel extremely privileged to have been part of that guy-bonding trip.

By the time my daughter, his first great-grandchild, was born, Harry was no longer up for that level of activity; but that didn’t stop him from gardening and getting down to her level to teach her what he knew.

Gardening lesson

Gardening lesson

He still loved to fish and wore his favorite hat, although he now needed a cane to climb in and out of the boat. Even though his body weakened, he enjoyed life to the end. Sadly, he passed away before either of my children could form coherent memories of him.

Years later, in an effort to downsize (see saving family heirlooms https://themiddlegeneration.wordpress.com/saving-family-heirlooms ) , my mother-in-law, Harry’s daughter, passed on his fishing hat and cane to my children -sad but meaningful tokens to them.

Four generations

Four generations

In spite of the fact that my son never met Grandpa Harry, he always knows it is his cane. The other day, he came home from school to see me walking and his face lit up as he proclaimed:”You’re using Grandpa Harry’s cane, mom! He would like that!”

It amazes me how a cane, which Harry only used for a few of his 94 years, has served as a bridge between him and his great grandson. Even though it is a symbol of weakness and old age- certainly not how he saw himself until the very end- it has become a way to keep Harry’s memory alive at whatever age we knew him. So, as I walk with the aid of his cane I think of him and smile. Some people might see me as weak, but they don’t know the strength of the spirit behind this cane.

Family Jewels: My Aunt’s Favorite Ring

One of the most special people in my life was my Aunt. She taught music to school children and always seemed full of energy and humor. I was born on her birthday and she and I shared a special bond. When I was just learning to speak, I pronounced my name “Audi”. That name stuck with her and, once I had outgrown it, she was the only person I allowed to still use it. I was old enough to be the flower girl at her wedding and many years later she was overjoyed to celebrate mine.

Aunt and Uncle had no children of their own; so whenever we saw them, we always made sure to have some special time together. With Aunt, this often included singing some songs. She had a lovely voice and knew plenty of kid friendly music.

She and my uncle had classic taste. Their house was full of antiques which they collected at weekend auctions or estate sales. Her wardrobe consisted of turtlenecks and sweaters ordered through the LL Bean catalog- nothing flashy or fancy. Her jewelry, on the other hand, was where she made her statement. Sapphire was her birthstone, but she also loved rubies and emeralds. Uncle was pleased to surprise her with beautiful pieces he had found at some of the sales they attended.

She would walk into the house wearing a navy turtleneck with dark pants and a sweater, but she would sport pearl earrings and a sapphire and diamond ring on her hand. As a kid, her cheery smile and warm hug as I rushed into her arms was what really mattered to me.

Sadly, her life was cut short by lung cancer. By that time I had children of my own and their memories of her are as an ill person who tried to be friendly  between coughing fits. I have tried to pass on some of the songs she sang to me and create  a different picture of her for my kids.

A few years ago, my uncle decided it was time to pass along some of Aunt’s jewelry. I have two sisters who were equally close to her. Uncle sent us a package to go through together. Some things were for us to sort out ourselves, others were specifically earmarked by him for one or another of us. This sparkling sapphire and diamond ring was one of her favorites and Uncle thought I should have it since Aunt and I shared a birthday.

It means a lot to me. Whenever I look at it, I think of her. I remember her bright smile and optimistic outlook on life. At Christmas, I sing one of the school children songs she taught.  I miss her on our birthday and often shed a tear. I would gladly give her ring back in exchange for another cheery hug. As beautiful as this ring is, it could never replace her.