Visibly Invisible

green bowlIn true DIY fashion, for the past few weeks my husband has been doing a refresh of our kitchen. He scraped and repainted the popcorn ceiling (not a project for the faint of heart – messy and no fun for him, and even with tarps used, it still took me two days to clean the fine white powder off every surface in the house), and he has painted the walls and all of the trim. Nearly done, and it looks great.

This morning as I was emptying and rinsing the old ugly plastic bowl for recyclables that lives on my counter, I suddenly realized:  hey, I could be wild and crazy and get something else that actually matches the kitchen and looks nice on the counter!   More than 10 years ago at least, I tossed that green plastic container on the counter to collect recyclables that could then be taken out to the garage and sorted on a daily basis.  It was a bowl I happened to have on hand at the time, was durable and cleanable, so voila! There it has lived on the counter ever since. Something we look at every day, yet it had become invisible.  It in no way matches my sunny yellow-blue-and-white kitchen.  It is in no way attractive. I could have replaced it long ago, yet it apparently took a major surrounding beautification project for me to even notice it.

So this has gotten me thinking about what other things in our lives have become virtually invisible yet are in front of us every day, and could really use some attention.  Maybe it is a burned out light bulb in the bathroom and you’ve gotten used to the slightly dim cast.  Or it could be a pair of pants with a torn hem, that have been pushed to the back of the closet.  Or my favorite, that invisible jar of pickles, salsa or dressing in the fridge that expired 6 months ago.

Even my gym bag is a good example. It actually isn’t a gym bag. It is a ratty old fabric tote bag that about 100 years ago I got as a gift-with-purchase and because it was there, I started using it for carrying around my workout clothes.  I think about replacing it every time I pick it up. Then promptly forget about it as soon as it once again becomes invisible in the corner of the bedroom between uses. No one else would ever give a damn what I carry my workout stuff in, but I hate that bag. It is ugly and too small. And yet – I continue to use it because I apparently can’t be bothered to shop for a real bag.  Or, more likely, it disappears from my view and my thoughts.

I have a strip of “garden” between my front porch and the driveway.  It is an odd area that gets little sun, and lots of snow pile abuse. Ages ago, I had the brilliant idea to plant ivy and pachysandra, thinking it would become a lovely green lush ground cover.  Each year, I have believed “it will fill in more next year.”  15 years later, it is still scraggly.   And, you guessed it, it has become visibly invisible.  I only notice it when the ivy is trying to creep up the wall of the house or out into the driveway, and will give it a hair cut. Otherwise, it is a largely ignored space.  My stepson, who does landscaping part-time, gently mentioned to me recently that the area could probably look better with something else in there.  Clearly it is quite visible to him.  Around the corner from my scraggly ivy patch was an equally scruffy Speria bush that I asked him to help me remove.  I came home from work one day to see the bush gone, leaving a lovely clear ready-to-be-beautified patch of dirt.  I was shocked how good the empty space looked.  Suddenly that invisible ivy patch is as noticeable to me as a neon sign.   It’s gotta go.  I’m planning to tackle it this weekend, and am now researching better shade-loving perennial options that will be lovely and visible.

Understandably, many of our invisibles stop being noticed simply because they would require time, energy and money to change, all three of which are in short supply for any R.W.  Visibly invisible items are some of the lowest on our priority lists.  We have either chosen to ignore them, or are somehow intimidated by them (like my ivy weed patch), or are just so busy taking care of everything else, we just learn to live with things like ugly counter buckets.  I do want to point out, however, that the invisibles in a woman’s life are different then in a man’s life.  Nearly anything and everything that leaves a man’s hand can, and does, become invisible. Dirty socks on the floor, junk mail on the table, tools left on the counter, dishes in the sink – all invisible to the male eye.  Perhaps we RW’s are so busy seeing and taking care of their invisibles that we just gloss over our own.

Until, finally, for some reason something has become so noticeable we decide to take action, and it can be pretty darn exciting.  I’m giddy thinking about a trip to Home Goods for a new recyclables bin.

 

 

Posted in achievements, Chores, cleaning, convenience, DIY, family, home, home chores, housework, men, preparation, routines, skills, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

One of Many Firsts

calendarI started my day today feeling a bit off, a little sad.  After all, it was the first holiday, the first Easter, since my older brother passed.  I woke up keenly aware that today there was no Easter basket for him containing white chocolate, a wind-up toy for his collection, and his preferred style of polo shirt. There would be no silly Easter puns, no special requests for dinner, and no traditional family egg-cracking contest.  Ironically, so many of the things that used to run me ragged and annoy me, I now miss.

That’s the thing about loss that we all experience.  There will always be holidays, events, and moments that are “the first since.”  How we handle those “first since” days is a total unknown until they are upon us.  We need to be ready that some of them will be downright miserable. We will be sad, mad, anti-social, and will only want the day to be over.  But then others will be ok, possibly even good – maybe even happy.  We need to believe that wherever we land is ok.  It is what it is.

Any of us who have people in our lives who are going through their “first since” days (and I know a few) need to try to be supportive and understanding. Offer to be with her, but don’t be offended if she just wants to be alone.  Let’s face it, our moods and coping mechanisms during grief are a crapshoot at best. Grief is like an alien being that tries really hard every day to take control of our bodies, our minds, our hearts, and our energy. Some days we are better at beating back that alien, other days we are just too darn tired and we let the alien take the wheel.

For me today ended up being ok – even good. Sure, there were some tears off and on, but the church service this morning was lovely, and the small kiddos in their Easter dresses and bow ties and suspenders were adorable.  The weather cleared enough in the afternoon for me to get in some quiet therapeutic time in my gardens and out on a bike ride. I spent time doing some college planning with my son.  Since this was a planned casual at-home holiday, we decided to hold off and have dinner a bit late, so my stepson who flew into town this evening from a work trip could join us. As expected, he regaled us with stories, because he’s just one of those guys who always has tall tales to tell.  I decided on the menu myself – ham with baked apples, twice-baked potatoes, green beans, cheddar biscuits, and blueberry cream pie for dessert.  Comfort food all the way.  My brother would have been ok with the selection, although he would have preferred mashed potatoes and beets.

It was not like any past Easter.  And that’s the other thing about “first since” days.  They mark the beginning of how things will never be the same, and we have to start navigating through our journey of what to do now.  How to feel, how to act, even what to eat.  Not an easy task, but we can manage. Because we have to.

The most important thing to remember is that no matter whether it is the First Since, or the 20thSince, our loved ones want us to carry on, want us to be happy. They would want us to celebrate the time we had with them and to share memories of them, but to continue to live our lives. Even if it feels a bit awkward at first, and even when we can’t help but have moments when we are focused on their absence. I know for a fact that my brother looked down upon me today and was disappointed that I hadn’t done any colored eggs this year.  My heart just wasn’t in it.  But I think by next year, I’ll be ok with it, and I will re-introduce his beloved egg cracking contest in his honor.

Because as we wade through the First, Second, or Tenth Since, it’s nice to sprinkle in some traditions to make them feel just a bit closer on the tougher days.

 

 

Posted in adults, birthdays, disabilities, celebrations, death, family, Food, Holidays, love, meals, moods, preparation, routines, Seasons, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Quit My Bellyaching

Lunch bagI have a love-hate relationship with lunch.   I love to eat.  It is the what & how of it that I hate.  The deciding on what, and the prep of whatever it is, feels like drudgery to me.  Yeah, I know, wah wah, first world problems.  Even worse, I have a fully equipped kitchen at work, so there’s nothing to prevent me (aside from time, energy and desire) to make myself a real meal.  Yet I routinely fall back on my usuals, alternating between salad (the big ugh of morning prep), and “diet” freezer meals… you know, the ones that proclaim to be low in calorie, yet are loaded with sodium, and all end up pretty much tasting the same after being microwaved.  OR, devoid of any other good ideas, I might grab some carrot sticks and pre-made hummus, throw together some cheater chicken and lettuce in a tortilla shell and call it a wrap. You see why I’m bored.

The other morning I was rummaging around in my freezer trying to select my boxed fare du jour, considering if instead I should put some rotisserie chicken pieces (prepared by the grocery store) on a pre-cut bag salad, and I thought about how sad it is that I complain not only about the options I have, but about the convenience.  Oh, geez, I’m going to have to go to the kitchen, follow simple instructions, and wait 7 minutes until my hot meal is ready.  Or warm up some chicken someone else roasted for me.  What a chore.

We are surrounded by prepared foods and time-and-energy-cutting ingredients.  A few weeks ago when my hubby and I were out of town, but our 18-year old stayed home, I prepped some items to make his fairly basic meal cooking skills easier. I actually bought a packet of pre-cooked bacon.  10-seconds in the microwave, and it actually tastes not horrible. I could see, hear and feel my mother (God rest her soul) shaking her head aghast at not only the craziness of the pre-cooked and packaged item, but at the cost to have that convenience.

I thought about what mom would have done years ago when she was tight on time or energy but needed to make a meal happen. Mom did not work outside the home, but she was a busy lady. She took care of a big old farm house with three acres of land, four kids, a working and traveling hubby, and a big messy dog (along with various other animals at some points in our history). She also did volunteer work. So I’m quite sure there were nights when she had to come up with something quick to feed her herd. But of course in those days there were no already prepped by someone else, pre-cut ingredients. The only prepared frozen meals came along later – they were “TV Dinners”, and still needed to be heated in the oven. There was of course no microwave. As for our lunches we took to school, they were almost always a sandwich (Fluffernutters for me) or a combination of foods that could survive not being refrigerated and didn’t need heating. All made by mom.

There are very few fast “cheater” meals I remember from my youth. On the occasions mom and dad would be going out in the evening, before the babysitter came over mom would make what became a beloved combination of creamed corn and pieces of hotdog. It took probably less than 5 minutes to make. And sometimes on a weekend, Dad would make pancakes for supper which we all thought was fascinating and fun. But that’s about it. I guess if mom needed something quick, she would pull out a meal she’d had the foresight and time to have made previously and frozen – although it still needed to be thawed, and cooked by stove or oven. No quick zap in the nuker. And I don’t know about you other RW’s out there, but I’m happy if I can manage to make one dinner meal a day, let alone extras to store in the freezer to make my life easier in the future. As great an idea as that is, it just isn’t going to happen.

What about the earlier generations? I wonder what my grandmother must have done when prep time, and desire, were limited. Granted, in those days, people of means often had a cook or housekeeper to assist, and it was that person’s job to make sure meals were ready. How lovely would that be today? It would be heavenly to have someone else do my grocery shopping, meal planning, and food prep. No such luck. And even back then, many could not afford this luxury… so what options did they have? Sandwiches? Left overs? Soup?   Things that had to be heated up on a heavy, slow to warm stove? I’m guessing “quick and easy” was not in their vocabulary regarding meals. Nor did they have the option to pick up the phone and within 30 minutes have someone deliver a meal to their doorstep.   I think if I came home after a long day, and had to figure out how to reheat some mutton chops after lighting my gas oven or getting a fire going in my pot-bellied stove, I’d decide to go hungry.   Just not worth the effort.

So the next time I dole out some pre-prepped food or open the door of the magic instant heating appliance to warm up leftovers in under 3 minutes, I will pause and think of the women who went before me…they toiled for hours to provide every meal for their family, rather than simply pushing a couple of buttons to make lunch happen. I will endeavor to stop my bellyaching about my food boredom and will be thankful that in our crazy, fast–paced world, I have the option of convenience.

Posted in Chores, convenience, DIY, family, Food, Health, home, home chores, meals, preparation, real women, routines, skills, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pondering the Lack of a Last Step

paper towel rollThere are some questions in life to which we will never really know, or understand, the answers.  We real women hate that.  We like to be in control, know why things happen, and have everything move smoothly.  We can learn to live with not knowing some of the big answers, like the meaning of life, the reason for loss, or why we’ll never be happy with our weight.  But it’s those little things that drive us batty. It would be easy to say the answers lie in a simple truth of sheer laziness. But I really don’t think that’s quite right. It seems to be more an inability to take just one more step.   Let’s look at a few examples.

  • The empty paper towel roll, and it’s cousin, the empty toilet paper roll. Someone used the last piece, the last square, pulling it free of the tube center.  And there it sits, in all of its cardboard nakedness, waiting to be noticed, which will happen when the next person comes along in desperate need of the squares that aren’t there.  Why was a new roll, which is stored nearby, not put into service right away?   No answer. Just a missed step.
  • A sink full of dishes. Not the pile that appears immediately following a big meal – there’s a reason for those. But what of the random bits that show up magically during the course of the day, gathering as if they are having a small dirty dish party?  There they hang out, celebrating the fact that for some reason they were not placed inside the dark depths of the dishwasher which is less than 24” away.  Are they being trained to jump into the washer by themselves?  History would show this is not a successful mission.  Next step abandoned.  Don’t know why.
  • A dropped item left where it fell. This could be anything from an item of dirty laundry dropped in the middle of a floor, an item knocked off a retail shelf, or food spilled in the microwave. It is like the item instantly becomes invisible to the dropper, or the effort to bend over and correct the issue seems insurmountable. Or maybe It is a scientific experiment to see if gravity could truly be reversed.  A misstep.nips1
  • Empty nip bottle litter. They are everywhere, scattered like plastic seeds that will never germinate, or left in a heap along the roadside. SO many unanswered questions here. Why are they there?  Are they all being tossed out a car window?  And by who?  Teens participating in underage partying?  Alcoholics hiding the evidence on the way home?  And why always
    nip sizes?  If one is going to drink 10 nips, wouldn’t buying a full size bottle be more economical?  And why is it almost always Fireball? And most irritating of all, why litter? Can’t the responsible person toss them into a paper bag in the back seat until they get near a trash can?   Epically failed step.
  • Abandoned shopping carts. Just this evening I pulled into a lot at a local market and sure enough, there’s an empty cart hanging out straddling the line between two parking spaces, just one row away from the cart return. Forlornly waiting for a gust of wind so it can gain its own power to go bumping into parked vehicles.  This annoys me almost as much as the discarded nips. The person who used that cart had likely just walked all the way around and through the store, then to their car. Were those last few steps just too much to make?  Quite literally, steps not taken.

We spend most of our time taking extra steps to pick up after others, to keep life rolling along the way we like it to roll.  And that’s the issue.  Some choose to follow a different course, move along a different path, and take different (or fewer) steps. We just need to let it go. If we can’t fix it of course.  My husband and I have a saying we use with each other:  “I’m not a control freak, but let me show you how to do that.”

I guess us non-control freaks should stop looking for answers where there aren’t any.   Or hoping for extra steps.

 

 

 

 

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Waiting for Rosie

rosieWhen I was a young girl, I liked to watch reruns of The Jetsons with my brother.  At the time, the space-age futuristic inventions and contraptions fascinated me and seemed impossibly cool. I thought they could never happen. While I watched flying cars, a conveyor belt George rode on to get dressed in the morning, and Rosie, the robot maid, I thought life would be so much easier with these nifty innovations.

Now, of course, I marvel that the Hanna-Barbera team could have come up with those concepts back in the 60’s, and how close we are to having so many of them now in the 2000’s. But many of the new, real technologies aren’t giving me warm and fuzzy feelings.  As a matter of fact, lately I’ve been getting more jaded and frustrated with things that are supposed to make life easier.

s&s robotThere is a new robot at my local Stop & Shop supermarket.  It roams the aisles, beeping, apparently looking for spills and hazards in the aisles. It will supposedly eventually be upgraded to be able to check inventory and place orders for missing product, but it can’t do that yet.  I have no idea if it has a name.  My name for it is Useless.  The other day I rounded the corner to aisle 7 and there it was, stopped in the middle of the aisle.  Its lights had changed from blue to blinking white.  It announced, over and over again, in both English and Spanish “Caution, hazard detected.”  Whenever this metal beast detects a perceived threat like spilled produce, not only does it repeat that phrase, but it automatically starts an announcement in the store PA system to say “Clean up needed in Aisle 7.”    I looked down the aisle, and the only issue I saw was one cereal box that was on the floor leaning up against the bottom shelf.  I picked it up and put it back on the shelf, and like an idiot, started talking to the robot.  “It’s ok, you can shut up now and keep going.”  But of course, that doesn’t work.  A store employee must come to the robot and push appropriate buttons to reset it and send it on its way.

So let me get this straight. Unlike Rosie, this robot can’t really do anything, it can only point out issues, then waits for someone to come take care of it.  I don’t need a robot to do that, I have men in my life who have fine-tuned that skill.  I was in the store for only 45 minutes, yet heard the “Clean up in aisle…..” warning no less than four times.  Which means the robot saw something – anything – that could have been an issue, and had to call for human backup.  While Useless was stuck in my aisle, another woman came along and we chatted briefly. She informed me that she heard that the price tag for Useless was $65,000.  Looking around the store, I saw lots of other things I’d spend that money on if it was up to me.  But hey, I’m just the customer, what do I know?   When I made my way up to the front of the store, I watched one staff member hustle over to reset Useless because it had stopped again, this time in Aisle 11.  I asked the cashier if hearing the “clean up” messages drove her crazy.  She sighed and said “It happens All. Day. Long.  Yet another crazy way to try to get rid of us humans.”

And there it is, the fear we all harbor deep inside as technology continues to expand and roll toward a Jestons-onian world… that some day humans will be replaced by machines. Fifty years ago that seemed like a crazy Twilight Zone concept, fodder only for scary movies and nightmares. Yet today we see the potential inching forward.  Self check-out aisles in the store (don’t get me started on that colossally screwed up concept), drones to make deliveries, and digital currency – all very real things, all of which I’ve so far avoided. At restaurants like Panera and McDonalds, we can now ignore the humans behind the counter and tap our orders into a kiosk. My son, who has been working at Panera, said “they can’t get rid of us.. all the old people come to us because they don’t understand how to use the technology, or just don’t even want to try.”  Ok, so I guess I’m in that old person category, because I have no interest in using the machine, I’d much rather talk to a human.

I know my resistance holds no threat to technological advances.  I know that kiosks, robots, and computers will continue to advance and improve until they can do much more, and I will have to accept and welcome future innovations.  I need to assure myself that humans will always be necessary, and some day Rosie will become reality and I will be happy because she will be able to do my dishes for me, take care of my grocery shopping, make me some tea, and even ask me how my day was.  Until then, I need to be patient and accept that we’ve gotta start somewhere – and it’s ok.

So I guess it is a matter of perspective.  As I look around my house, I see where my dear husband has left little piles of projects every where he’s been.  Business paperwork in the kitchen, his work bag in the dining room, shipping boxes on the floor, his laptop and other materials in a pile in the living room, work boots and socks near the door….and I consider that if I had that goofy robot from Stop & Shop in my house, and it was somehow programmed to send communications in a frequency that only my husband could hear and would have to come do clean up and push reset, that could be pretty darn handy.

You know, like a Digital Nag.  I’m warming up to the future already.

 

 

Posted in assisting, Chores, communication, convenience, digital, DIY, Food, Helping others, innovation, life phases, men, moods, real women, routines, shopping, simplifying, Technology, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

In Search of POE

waitressI was fortunate to take a mini-vacation this past week.  Four and a half days of fun, sun, sand and surf in Florida. It was lovely and restorative. I could use this post to go on a diatribe about how too many of us don’t take enough time off to refresh and reboot, and how important it is to occasionally unwind.  But I’ll hold off until I’m successful in taking my own advice and manage to take any further days off in coming months.

I could also wax on about how every sunrise, even over the ocean, is fresh and new and different, and how we need to take those hints as to how we should live our lives… but sunrises are deeply personal and amazing things we all need to experience and consider on our own.

I will instead offer up a topic that is more relatable no matter whether on vacation or not, because it has to do with personal interactions. One of the activities we do while on vacation that my family rarely does in our regular lives, is go out to eat.  In our day to day lives, eating out was one of those things that was taken off our list of normal routines in an effort to save both our budgets and our waistlines. But when on vacation, other than stopping at a local market to pick up a few things for the mini-fridge in the hotel room, pretty much every meal is eaten in some form of restaurant.  With some form of wait staff.

The restaurant business is hard. Waiting on tables and patrons is not for the faint of heart, nor really is any form of direct customer service.  Yet that interaction between customer and service provider can totally make or break an experience – not to mention greatly effect tips.  In the space of just four days, we interacted with the good, the bad, and the….huh?!

We had lunch at a sidewalk café on a beautiful weather day, in a cute touristy town.  The waiter, who’s name I have long since forgotten, could not have made it more obvious that the last place he wanted to be was there assisting us with our meal.  He did not smile, not even once.  And rather than look at us, even when speaking, he would gaze out at the road seemingly planning his escape route.  Mind you, the group I was with, all modesty aside, is a fun, friendly group.  We have ALL played roles in customer service at some point in our lives. We are all tippers.  We all appreciate what it takes to do what these folks do every day.  You know, things like energy, desire and enthusiasm. None of which this guy exhibited.

Then there was Technology Woman on Speed.  We went to one of our favorite seafood restaurants for supper, expecting a delicious meal and great service.  We did get the delicious meal.  And the Server was friendly and polite enough… however she was in rush mode, speaking at 100 miles an hour as if she needed us to hurray up with our decisions.  She was armed with a handheld digital ordering device, which I dread to be the next generation of dining interaction, and which I suppose added to her need for speed as it was likely her direct link to the kitchen. She focused completely on her electronics and didn’t attempt any eye contact with us.  Apparently looking at customers has become optional. She literally said “hold on” when she had to swipe, type, swipe, type to make a correction.  I felt like I was trying to talk to the new robot that roams around my grocery store beeping and checking stock.

There are times of course when no matter how hard the Server tries, they just can’t save a bad experience. Such was the case with the woman trying to serve us lunch at a local chain restaurant.  She tried her best, including being pleasant, accommodating and honest. She took back one meal when it was undercooked.  She sent out someone from the kitchen who attempted to convince us that rubbery, hard, inedible chunks in our conch fritters were supposed to be there. She reduced our bill.  She eventually commiserated with us that her friends won’t even come in because of all the bad Yelp reviews they’ve been seeing. Oh, sweetie, time to find a new job.

Happily, not all of our dining adventures were unpleasant.  A crew of amazing women were serving up breakfast at one cute café, with friendliness, energy, humor, and efficiency.  They made us feel welcome and comfortable. They were real women on a mission to treat their customers like they themselves would want to be treated. Imagine that.

The other stand-out was a young man by the name of Miguel, our server at a BBQ place. He was everything a waiter should be: friendly, accommodating, attentive, could make recommendations, and was efficient without rushing. He happily took our group photo when we requested it.  At one point I called him a secret ninja waiter because I had just finished my last sip of my beverage when he magically appeared asking if any of us needed a refill.

We women especially appreciate great service because it is such a treat for us to sit and be waited on, rather than be the one doing the running around taking care of people.  Trust us, we know what it is like to be tired, have sore feet, deal with difficult people, and be counted on to provide what everyone needs and expects.  It can be a fabulous thing to be on the other side of that.

There, I believe, is the secret that all great waitstaff know.  As with any variety of customer service, strength lies in POE:  The Power of Empathy.  Every person, alone or in a group, who walks through that door, is there for a reason.  It could be a celebration like a birthday, anniversary, or wedding shower.  It could be a reconnection of friends or family, a vacation, or a nervous first date.  It could be someone in mourning, stopping in after a funeral, or grieving over a break up. It could simply be someone who’s had a really long exhausting day who just doesn’t have the strength or desire to cook a meal. The reason doesn’t matter, what does matter is that they need help. Not just for someone to robotically bring them food, but to be human and kind.

This is true in every part of our lives. That person who sat at your table, walked into your business, met you on the street or even came into your home is there because their sunrise that morning started them on a journey that led them to you.  That journey could have been happy and delightful or more likely, challenging and tiring.  Because we are all on our own sunrise-directed journeys.  And a little POE can go a long way to serving up some warmth.

sunrise

Posted in assisting, celebrations, communication, Entertainment, family, Food, friends, Helping others, meals, moods, Professions, routines, stress, travel, Uncategorized, Vacation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Food For Thought

grapesWe all know that food memories are surprisingly strong.  The smell of something cooking can transport us to a past moment in time.  A mention of an ingredient can make us remember a special meal at a great restaurant, and we can all probably name our top three favorite foods from our childhood.  (For me, that would be fluffernutter sandwiches, chicken in a basket, and chocolate covered graham crackers)

But what is most fascinating is that food memories link us directly to certain people – usually other Real Women, both past and present.  For example, a bowl of grapes. Instantly I think of the multiple road trip car rides when we were kids, and mom would pack a bag of grapes as a trip snack. In her ever practical mind, she thought it was a great way to “wet our whistles” without loading the kids up with liquids that would require multiple stops at the next available restrooms. Nothing says snack desperation like a warm bag of grapes that sat perched on the dashboard before getting passed around. I told this story to a friend, and she said now she thinks of me and my mom every time she eats grapes.

The food-to-person memories are usually very specific.  Ironically it usually isn’t the fancy, complicated meals we remember. Sure, you may have an Aunt that could cook an amazing Beef Bourguignon, or a Grandma who spent all day creating the perfect sauce.  But it tends to be the more simple yet comforting food that sticks in our heads, hearts, and taste buds.  Oatmeal raisin cookies make me think of a woman who used to care for my Grandmother, and her cookies were always the best. When asked what her secret was, she said in a whisper with a wink “I put the raisins in upside down.”  A concoction of creamed corn and hot dogs makes me think of mom and dad getting ready to go out, because that was a quick meal mom would prep for us before they left.  Salmon on the grill links me to my Dad and Stepmother – yet it is raspberry sorbet that is my son’s immediate link to Grammy. When I cook with peppers and onions, I think of my sister who said all good meals start with that as a base.

It isn’t even necessarily expert cooking skills that conjure up these beloved partnerships.  When anyone mentions cupcakes, I think of one of my BFFs who loves them, and with whom I have had serious ratings discussions on various samples. When I shop for bananas, I think of my brother who completely believed that the best tasting bananas were long, straight and slightly green. Another of my BFFs is a great cook, yet my food connection to her is the massive Reese’s Pieces Sundaes we shared in our teens (oh, how I miss those days.)

Most amazing is how our Fond Food & People Memories last for generations, and stretch to people beyond those originally involved.  Similar to how my grape story now sticks with someone who never had the pleasure of meeting my mom, the food connections not only continue, but grow.  Whenever we make tuna sandwiches in our house, either my husband or I say “toast it lightly and spread it thinly” because that’s how his Stepmom (a woman I never met) used to do it.  I felt a surge of pride when I made some Italian Wedding Soup that apparently rivaled that of his best friend’s mother, another memory from his youth.  We are confident that in our family, future generations will grow up eating “Queen Mary’s”, a creation my mother developed as a child involving an english muffin, strawberry jam and bacon, and knowing the story behind it.  If we all stop to think about the various connections of confections we have in our lives, the threads, or shall I say ingredients, that weave the treat tales is fascinating. And it always, one way or another, leads back to a person who had something special to share.

This weekend as I was trying out new recipes, and making some of my old standby’s like chocolate chip cookies, I thought about how when our older boys come to visit, they tend to request certain foods that they seem to associate with being home.  As time progresses, those associations and memories just naturally happen. I wondered what the Fond Food Memories will be for my son, and grandchildren, that they will identify with me. Will it be for my chopped salads? My comfort food?  My baked goods? Or something as funny as road trip grapes?  Only time will tell.

We all like to think we will leave some lasting legacy for future generations.  Some big thing, like a published work, a business venture, or even a financial estate.  Yet to me, “legacy” means anything that comes with a good story, and creates feelings of pride, happiness, comfort, and wanting to make the world a better place in memory of a loved one.  It doesn’t have to be huge, it just has to be something wonderful that keeps living on through future generations.

Like a warm oatmeal cookie with upside down raisins.

 

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