Mom circa 1956

Mom circa 1954

Last week I read about my friend Lynn Rosen in a Philly Inquirer article discussing her book, Elements of the Table. I tell you this because it made me realize– I’ve never taught either of my kids the proper way to set a formal table. In my defense, our household is so informal I’m happy to have everyone use a plate. Plus, it never occurred to me that my kids might need to know that formal tables are set with more than one knife, one fork and a pile of napkins somewhere within reach. I emailed Lynn to thank her about the reminder. That article got me thinking about all of the things my mom taught me.

I often go on about how lucky I am to be the oldest daughter of my handyman dad. He taught me lessons that girls of my age are rarely given, like how to wire electric outlets and hook up sink faucets. What I tend to dwell less on is how much I learned from my mom. Perhaps because the things she taught me were, I thought, more expected. How to cook, how to sew, sort of how to clean (but not really, ’cause there is life to live) these are things my mom taught me. Usual sorts of things for someone of my generation.

I’ve come to realize that not everyone can cut a pattern and sew a complete outfit. My mom taught me that. I can make a mean lasagne, though I can afford ricotta and she made do, quite deliciously, with cottage cheese. I can make the most delectable gravy from almost any roast. I’m glad I don’t have to use the lessons on how to stretch a gallon of milk with dry power, or how to survive on weekly dinners of creamed chip beef, but I was instructed in all these arts. She taught me how to standup for myself too, by example. While both my parents taught me many lessons in self-sufficiency, mom was an exercise in the art of strong, capable womanhood. Maybe this caused a lot of head-butting during our time together. I wish she was around so that I could apologize for using her lessons on her.

Mother’s Day is Sunday and mom has been gone for 17 years, my mother-in-law for 19– yes I loved her very much too, so I have no mom of my own to thank and appreciate. I’ll just use the day to help my kids appreciate me. I’ll ask them if I have taught them anything extra special, and maybe we’ll even have a mini lesson in table setting.

I’ll also appreciate all of the many, many amazing mom peers I have in my life.
Happy Mother’s Day.