Since my Mom died (see “My Mother and Her Shoe Boxes”), holidays can be a bummer, frankly. Since my Mom died, I anticipate my birthday with dread, honestly. Family events highlight her absence.
By way of background, my mother and I were very similar personality types: extroverts, who like to joke and make things happen. Complete foodies. We were very close when I was growing up.
She worked very hard. It wasn’t easy being an immigrant in a poor part of Brooklyn with limited English, but she did her best. My father worked long hours and didn’t speak much when he was home, but my mother worked very hard to create a home.
When my sister and I used to came home from school, she would have a hot meal ready for us for a snack. Every day. This wasn’t chicken nuggets in the microwave. She would cook a real dish. And, dinner, was a whole new and different dish.
She went all out for our birthdays. For Thanksgiving and Christmas, she would do the same thing. There’s a very hard-to-make chicken dish. I don’t know the Chinese name, but she would debone a whole chicken without cutting into the skin, mince and season the meat, and then stuff it into the chicken. It would then look like a whole chicken, but it was entirely deboned. A great illusion. No other parents would attempt the feat.
For each holiday, she’d always prep my favorite childhood dish: shrimp tempura. I always could count on that dish appearing, even when I went home for Christmas with my own family. I never had the heart to tell her it was no longer my favorite.
It’s funny, how small things like that serve as anchor points in your memory.
Today, on holidays, I think of her a great deal. Now that I’m a parent, I try to be like her. If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I cook all the holiday meals at our house. Also, I cook a nice meal every Sunday night. The kids get sparkling apple cider in wine glasses. There is good wine for the adults. It’s a special meal.
My secret hope is that the children will look fondly on these evenings when they’re older and after I’ve gone. I tweet these meals so that hopefully they can have a digital record of one part of their family life.
Since my Mom died, I cook because it also connects me to her. Since my Mom died, I cook with a purpose.
I don’t think you ever get over the loss of a mother.