Remember when you were in junior high and you rolled your eyes at just about any advice your mom gave you?
On this Mothers Day, I so wish she were around so I could tell her how right she was on so many accounts. When she was thirsty, she would let the faucet water run until it was cold and exclaim, “This is the best thirst quencher!” This was when individual bottled water was unheard of and we hadn’t been warned of soda pop sabotaging our diets, teeth or innards.
She and my father drank an aromatic, percolated pot of real coffee every morning and night, and introduced me to “coffee milk” at a young age – much more milk than coffee, sweetened with real sugar. Now we’ve learned that drinking moderate amounts can lower the risks of Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, stroke AND diabetes. Most mornings in high school, she would beat a raw egg into my steaming coffee milk and I would chug it for my daily protein, dairy and a bit of caffeine.
There were no frozen or canned foods in the pantry or the small freezer, with the exception of stewed tomatoes. Canned ones were too salty and frozen ridiculously tasteless and expensive, she would assert, and every Saturday my father would bring home fruits and veggies in season from the West Side market and cheeses and meats from Gallucis Italian store. In the summer, they would till a small plot behind the garage for tomatoes, red leaf lettuce, green peppers and cucumbers, not unlike the home gardens that are encouraged and flourishing now.
Mom prepared some sort of pasta meal every Thursday and Sunday, lean meatballs or sirloin and a greens salad tossed with imported olive oil from a gallon can and Regina wine vinegar. So what diet has been touted to be the most healthy – the Mediterranean one – filled with healthy oils, semolina grain, lycopene-rich tomatoes and vitamin filled greens. There were no salt and pepper shakers on the table, nor butter for the bread. My mother insisted the food was flavored perfectly and the bread was for slopping up the rest of the sauce or dipping in the salad oil.
She never had use for an exercise plan that most of us struggle to fit into our routines. She kept fit by carrying loads of wet laundry from the basement outside to hang on the line and doing her squats by reaching down and up to hang dozens of items, including my first-born’s cloth diapers, clean and white and fresher than that summer breeze smell that wafts from our fabric softener sheets. She weeded her gardens and pruned her roses and pushed a hand mower.
May is Mothers Day, dogwoods, azaleas and that lovely pale green of new leaves. It is also the month in which she was born some 98 years ago. Not a day goes by that I don’t thank her for her legacy. and miss her for her wisdom.
Yvonne Ransel lives in Bristol and occasionally writes essays for The Elkhart Truth.