Tag Archives: mother

“Winter is coming”

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Over the past week I hauled home, sans vehicle, 16 28oz cans of Furmano’s tomatoes which means I now have a stash of 26. I take my tomatoes seriously. Besides, they’re on sale for $1. I used to buy the “Chunky Crushed” but somewhere along the way added ingredients included Calcium Chloride, Citric Acid and Xanthan Gum, and that’s a few too many additives for my pleasure. The “Crushed” variety, although thinner consistency 😢, merely has Citric Acid. Delicious Citric Acid! (I’m kind of kidding. Citric Acid is common and generally considered safe.) While I’m on it, “Diced” contain Calcium Chloride and Citric Acid but I rinse those before using. I stopped buying ready-made, jarred pasta sauces (too much salt & sugar) long ago and canned became my go-to. Furmano’s is tasty and regularly drops to $1 a can, so I stick mainly with them.

I guess I should mention I’ve never canned my own tomatoes and have no interest in starting. The memories of my mother spending days in the kitchen in hot, steamy summers working that scary pressure cooker remain strong. She’d be in a pretty foul mood and the whole enterprise appeared messy and chaotic. Also, um, the results, served up in future family dinners? They were not good, at least to my child self.😒

In the past I’ve made my own sauce from fresh tomatoes (which could be frozen instead of canned) but I really can’t get behind the reality that it takes 20 tomatoes or therabouts, to produce a measly cup of sauce. I don’t care for them odds. Don’t get me started on having to buy tomato paste in order not to have thin, watery sauce…

Two winters ago I shared my tomato stash which looked like this. I have (more) time on my hands in winter to do things like arrange my tomato cans into a pyramid for the purposes of this blog clearly.😁

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If you think one thin, middle-aged woman could not eat all that, you’d be wrong, friends! (She did & then some.)

What led to this post other than the 16-can-purchase was finding the wood shelves they’re pictured on, curbside yesterday. I wasn’t sure what I’d do with them but since they were solidly built & real wood (not pressed board crap) I figured I should just grab them. They were a perfect fit for a spot in the kitchen and after I’d lined up the tomato cans and admired them the words “Winter is coming” sprang to mind. And so it is. But by god I’ll have 🍅.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Short Thought 234

I never heard my mother use the words “good years” in relation to her marriage to my father until after he was dead. “When exactly,” I asked, “were those?” After all, I’d lived with the happy couple for twenty years and had plenty of opportunity to witness them beyond that, and I hadn’t seen anything that could be described in those words.

Short Thought 233 (family)

When I was a young adult my much older brother physically attacked me at our parents’ house at Thanksgiving. The “reason” is flimsy and bizarre and not worth typing. The event devolved into a huge family fight involving my many siblings (and parents) that had very little, if anything to do with me.  Christmas was on its way. My mother made a big point of saying ALL her children were welcome at her home.  I knew I was supposed to fall in line as if the incident had never happened and I also knew my pecking order in the family was such that my welfare wasn’t of great concern but there was no way I was sitting down to Christmas dinner with my brother.

A phrase best left in the movies

In his late twenties my older brother went on a solo journey across the country, an adventure trip that took place over the course of about a year. He met a woman and after they’d been together awhile, she agreed to leave her home and come back with him to live in our town. We were all quite curious about who this woman was, leaving her life and job behind to make such a drastic move for a man, and one she hadn’t known terribly long at that. In her car no less!

On the night they returned the family gathered to see him and meet his new lady. I don’t remember much about that evening except that my brother asked our mother rather grandiosely to “rustle up some grub” for his new girlfriend. Rustle up some grub??! Had my brother really said that?! The only place I’d heard the phrase before was on TV, on Westerns. Our suburban family didn’t talk like that. Also, why the hell couldn’t he get up and fix some food or order a pizza or something? As it was he didn’t have to; our mother did indeed go to the kitchen to “rustle up some grub” for my brother’s girlfriend.

The relationship didn’t last – she returned to her home after about a year – and if you ask me there was a major hint in how it would devolve in my brother’s words and attitude that first night. Perhaps he started demanding his girlfriend, a modern, independent woman with her own career to “rustle up some grub” and so on.

 

 

 

 

Short Thought 205 (mother/daughter)

Many years ago I realized that my mother hadn’t given me a model for how to be a woman. I was largely left to figure it out for myself. I subsequently told this to the man I was seeing. He said no, she had provided a model; it just wasn’t one I wanted. I thought that was insightful and probably more accurate than what I’d said.

Everything is not my job…

I have this thing I do where I assign myself tasks. Jobs. I talked it about it before when I wrote about my blog’s anniversary and how I am always mindful to not make the blog a JOB. I’ve been good about that so far as the blog, but I had to keep the thought in mind; otherwise I slip there too easily. My nature is: “I must,” “I should,” “I better.”

I expect a lot of people live like this, with a list of things in their minds that have to get done. That should get done. That they either are, or feel responsible for. When I was young, in my early twenties and on my own, someone once said to me that life, in his theory, was 25% maintenance. I was impressed. I’d never thought of it like that. Now I think the figure is too low. Because really, when you consider that most people work at jobs in service of maintaining the other aspects of their lives (exempting those people who truly love their jobs – all 18 of them), you’d be including the paid work in addition to all the other tasks one must do to maintain a life.

What I’m talking about, naturally, is maintaining a good life, because sure enough, lots of people don’t do all these maintaining type activities. They don’t work or they don’t take care of themselves, or they live in chaos and squalor. They let things go. It isn’t pretty. We have all seen it. Their homes are in disrepair. Their bodies are in disrepair. Their children are in disrepair. It’s a mess. And we/I think: Jeez-o-flip, I’m glad I don’t live like THAT. Things aren’t THAT bad. And I don’t EVER want to live like that.

People will say, some of them anyway, that these types of “jobs” or “maintenance” or “tasks” aren’t important. It’s just better to enjoy life and if things don’t get done, oh well. They say a happy family is better than a clean house. Or partying with your friends is more important than looking for a job. Stuff like that. I get that we all have different standards, different priorities, but I look sideways at people who live and say things like this; I don’t entirely believe them. Do they really feel okay with a life in disarray?

But back to me. I walk around looking for jobs to assign myself. Oh sure, that’s not a conscious thought. But when I’m honest I see that’s what I do. Out in the world and in my own quarters. Why is everything my job? I ask myself this. I don’t always have an answer. And what do I mean anyway? I mean that I see things that need to get done, or that I think need to get done. And tell myself to get on it. These aren’t necessarily BIG things (like getting a Master’s or traveling to Italy or running for office or starting a business) but it isn’t the size of them that I’m really referencing here but the perspective.

Earlier this year I put this note on my mirror (I since took it down):

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Maybe some people look around and think “wow things are great”, or think nothing at all. I look around and notice things that should be done. I don’t want to say this is entirely a BAD trait. I’m conscientious, I follow through, I’m reliable. I’d say I’m “proactive” but that’s not true across the board so let’s forget that one.

I have considered whether I do things so that other people might think or say, “isn’t that nice, look what she’s doing”? And the honest answer is no, it isn’t for other people’s eyes. In fact, I do things despite other people watching, despite a certain degree of self consciousness at times (one that has lessened with age and experience). The standards I am shooting for are my own, they are internal.

To be fair, the standards in my head were no doubt shaped by my mother. My mother saw life as an endless series of jobs. It was all work to her. She (along with my father) went and had herself a big family but by the time I came, she took little pleasure in said family, if she ever had (up for debate), and saw it as a huge source of work. Everything was a job. She even complained about family vacations and trips because of “all the work” she had to do to facilitate them. (Oh yes, this made everything, including trips, FUN for her offspring >>>sarcasm.)

My mother suffered. Oh, she suffered. She made sure we all knew – or at least her later children after which she had become thoroughly embittered on the business of raising a big family – how much trouble we all were. And everything about running the household – which was her primary focus (she had paid jobs mainly when we were older, but not a career per se) – were jobs. Unpalatable tasks.

The thing was she disdained pleasure and had scathing words for those who partook of it or focused on it. So it wasn’t like she’d have been whooping it up but for the big family and the work it entailed. In her view,  people who relaxed were LAZY. Children who played were lazy and spoiled. No, thankfully, she didn’t quote that saying about “idle hands” and the “devil’s workshop” but the point was clear enough.

My mother assigned herself jobs, some seemingly pointless and in fact, by the time I was a teen, I challenged her on it. God knows I’d heard her complain often enough about all the work she had to do, so I figured why shouldn’t she cut some corners? Especially insignificant ones.

One of the rare moments I ever influenced my mother stands out. We had a one floor house with a sort-of-finished basement and, eventually, a full bathroom on each floor (I remember a time when the downstairs bathroom had no shower and a curtain not a door). In the basement there was also a bedroom that was usually occupied by one or more of my brothers. But for the centipedes, crickets, and thousand-leggers who also occupied the basement, it was a pretty sweet set up. There was, in addition to the bathroom, a full size refrigerator (that always had beer in it), a TV room, a washer and dryer, and a “separate” entrance, i.e., a back door. AND it was about as far away from the fighting and chaos that was a regular household feature, as one could get and still be in the house. Not too shabby.

Anyway, my brothers didn’t use that washer and dryer, as it was my mother’s domain, and she washed the towels that were folded and stacked in the basement bathroom for my brothers’ use. She would bring said towels upstairs after washing and drying and carefully fold them on the dining room table. I’d watch this, knowing how she was, and finally said, why do you do that? It’s not necessary. To my shock, even now, after that she started just taking the bath towels out of the dryer and, skipping the hauling upstairs for careful folding routine, instead stuffing them onto the basement bathroom shelf. I couldn’t believe it, this token nod to rebellion and the easy life. It’s not like my brothers were going to care. They had clean towels that magically appeared. So what they weren’t nicely folded. (Trust me, she was never going to make them wash, dry and fold their own towels no matter how old they were.)

My mother did not teach me to look for “jobs”. No. It was obviously something I absorbed. But I took it further, out into the world with me, where she hadn’t. I think, in part, it’s because I developed a much stronger sense of self than my mother ever had, and a willingness to act if I thought it was called for.

The thing about a trait like this is that it’s been good in a lot of ways. I kind of feel like if I don’t assign myself jobs, I won’t do anything. And I get to reap (many of) the rewards of things I do. It’s when the tendency overwhelms me, when I “pile on” in my own mind that it becomes a negative force. I mean who wants to steal all the pleasure out of life? Isn’t the point of maintaining a good life so that you can step up and take the rewards too? I am surely not all-work-and-no-play. Please don’t think that. Far from it. But I am my mother’s daughter: in my unconscious mind, the rewards must be earned first. Chores come first. For me, the real task, the ongoing one, is teasing out which “jobs” really need to be done and which are manufactured in my own head. Everything is not my job.

What older sisters should be

My sisters were all older but they didn’t do the things that I’ve become wise to (over the passing decades) that older sisters are supposed to do. They did not teach me how to put on makeup, or how to do dance steps, or tell me anything helpful about boys. They didn’t give me good advice, or show me how to knit, or teach me to read. They did not buffet me from the chaos and drama that infused our household, or model admirable character, or guide me in how to live successfully. It goes on like that.

But here’s the thing. that’s not the whole story. When I’m looking at the whole scene, I know nobody did all of that for them either; they could not embody for me what no one had embodied for them. Their strongest influence was our mother. It was up to her to show her older daughters how to lead her younger ones, whether by her own example or by instruction. She did not.

But here’s the bigger thing. My sisters loved me. I never doubted that. Whatever else they lacked, wherever they fell short in my eyes, they loved me. That love was something I hung my hat on for a long time. It was love I returned. It made so much difference. When I look back at the gaps and what my sisters were not, I make sure I remember that too.