My mother was a hero.
In January of 1978 my brother Richard and his wife were flying home from their vacation, and would be stopping by my parent’s home to pick up Sam, their dog. Sam had been my dog, but since moving into their new home which was all decorated in white—white wool carpet, white sofa, white upholstered dining room chairs—and with me off at college, the dog had gone to live with Richard. I was six when my mother promised me that I could have a dog, but only if I could wait until I turned twelve. I didn’t mention the dog thing again until my twelfth birthday and then, surprisingly, my mother made good on her promise. I think she felt guilty that I would be home alone, with the last of my three older siblings heading off to college. The fact that my mother took me shopping for a puppy is the first example of my mom as a hero, since she was not a dog person (note the white carpet and white furniture). In addition to a lot of white, the new home had slick parquet floors, in a great open area which at its longest spanned 55 feet, and which sat atop 6″ of hollow-core concrete slabs. My dad was in the precast concrete business and there was a lot of structural concrete in the new home. After over 25 years (they had paid off the mortgage) in a 1920’s era home with the creakiest of floors, my father was proud of the solid floors in this new dream house. One could sneak from room to room in the new house without the slightest sound. There was no give to these floors.
Mom had prepared Richard’s favorite lasagna for dinner, and it sat on the counter waiting to go in the oven. A proficient multi-tasker long before they had a word for it, she phoned the airline to see when the plane would be arriving at O’Hare, and while on hold she took a minute to lay down the phone and run into the other room for a moment. Mom always had hot feet and instead of shoes or slippers she wore those nude-colored knee-high stockings. She had a drawer stuffed with hundreds of them in all shades of nudes and beige and taupe. As she ran into the other room, while the airline played hold-music, she slipped on the smooth parquet, and her hip landed right on that 6″ of immovable, hollow-core concrete, and broke.
Realizing that it was painful to walk, Mom crawled into the kitchen and somehow put the lasagna in the oven. She managed to get to the couch to wait until my brother arrived and called an ambulance. On her way out the door, on a stretcher, she told us when the lasagna would be ready and that we should be sure to check on it and sit down to eat it while it was hot. My hero.
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I didn’t break anything, I only had a cold, and so I can’t claim to be anywhere in a league with Ruth Gordon. Yet even though I was feeling ill I felt compelled by that mysterious, maternal force to produce a meal. The day before I had taken out the bag of frozen turkey scraps which had been in the freezer since Thanksgiving, and it was time to use them or toss them. As I lay in bed all day, feeling sorry for my pitiful virus, I contemplated the thawed turkey scraps and how I had planned on a lovely pot pie for dinner. Feeling the need to make dinner, and also feeling very lazy, I made a hurry-up version of a pot pie, making more of a cobbler than a pie. I made pot-pie filling as usual, poured it into a casserole dish, then mixed up a batch of biscuits in the food processor and glopped on bits of the biscuit dough on top of the filling,
Last night we had Turkey Cobbler for the third night in a row. Max asked me how much more of it there was and when I replied, sheepishly, that he must be sick of it, he said, “No, I could eat this every night for weeks! I love this!” I think I just invented Max’s favorite dinner, which I can make when he comes to visit me some day, when I’m watching his dog. I will endeavor to be a heroic mother. I will not, however, ever have a home that is decorated in all white.