Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Stirred Pot

The phone rang at 9:00 a.m. just as I knew it would. I was trying to get the turkey in the oven before Scott called. He’s accustomed to doing the cooking himself and he is very, very particular about how, and for how long things should be prepared and readied for eating. But, and it’s a very big but, he has a gentle, giving heart and I knew that he would feel he should volunteer to help me in the kitchen. And he did!

It wasn’t cast in stone, but I had told everyone that dinner would be served sometime around 2:00 p.m. My family likes to eat early so they will have enough time to recover from the meal and eat again before they head to bed sated and satisfied. If truth be told, my grandson ate three times before he finally gave it up and groaned his way to his bedroom. This family of mine ‘loves’ turkey.

Scott generally spends the day with his daughter and her family, but she had been dealing with family illness all week and needed a day of rest and so it was decided. Scott would take us up on the invitation we issue every year. Our little group was very pleased.

He arrived about an hour after the phone call and instantly grabbed a spoon and started stirring whatever it was that I had on the stove. As we worked and chatted the idle members of the crew drifted through the kitchen inhaling aromas and complaining of eminent starvation. It was a fun way to cook a fancy meal for a special day.

My granddaughter believes that holiday meals absolutely have to have a blueberry pie. No one had made or even ordered one for her. Drama was building! How could we have done such a dastardly thing as to forget HER pie? About that time my son announced that he had to go out for a bit and she immediately had a brilliant solution to her pie problem. She would help him with whatever he had to do and he would help her find a blueberry pie-selling vendor. He didn’t look particularly excited, but she certainly did. The drama had turned to hope.

When they returned she walked into the house with a pie box in her hands and a smile on her face. Her father walked into the house with a sober face and something on his mind, until he saw Scott at the stove. Then he laughed so loud you could have heard it next door. “Well Scott, you finally found someone that would let you stir a pot on the stove. Good for you!” Then Scott and I joined in his laughter. To everyone else that didn’t understand our laughter we told this little story.

As I’ve told you before Scott is programmed to do the cooking. God bless him, he can’t see a pot on the stove or a human in the kitchen without grabbing a spoon or an oven door and making himself a part of the what is going on.

As I’ve also told you before, my mother was a fantastic cook. She never used a recipe or a measuring tool. She just knew what went with what and how much. The magic she performed in the kitchen is legendary. She had one rule set in concrete. Never touch anything in her kitchen when she was cooking unless you were invited, and she rarely invited.

We had warned Scott, we had cautioned him because we knew how he was when there was a meal being prepared; “Stay out of mom’s kitchen.” He had thrown caution to the wind once or twice before and been nicely told to disappear. My son and I would laugh and Scott would shrug his shoulders and drop whatever he had in his hand and head out the nearest exit real quickly. It got to be a giggle moment between the three of us.

Until! Mom was busy in the kitchen preparing one of her wonderful meals when we walked in the front door. My son and I knew better, we stopped walking short of the kitchen, but not Scott. Just like he had never been warned his legs kept moving. They walked him straight into the kitchen. He greeted my mother, walked over to the big spoon, grabbed it and instantly started stirring the pot on the stove. My son and I looked at one another. Scott was either very brave or very slow. He had just walked straight into the mouth of the lion. My mother turned to look at him. She watched him for half a minute and then the woman that I had never heard utter a four letter word in my life grabbed her wooden spoon, raised it into the air and said, “Will you get the hell out of my kitchen?” Scott had never heard her utter anything like that before either. He looked like a trapped mouse for a minute while he frantically tried to find the quickest route out.

My son was shocked that Scott had taken it upon himself to touch grandma’s simmering pot, and shocked that his grandmother seemed to be simmering too; “I‘ve never heard grandma use language like that." I was shocked because my mother was never intentionally cruel; “I tried to warn you Scott.” Scott was shocked because in his eagerness and naivety he truly believed; “I was only trying to help.”

It was my quiet father, with a sweet smile on his face that brought all of us back to sanity. He understood and wasn‘t particularly shocked. He had been married to her since he was in his early 20’s. He put his arm around Scott, calmed any hurt feelings, and reminded us all that that one little four-letter word was miniscule compared to the wonder of the feast that she would put on the table. That put the smile back on all our faces.

It was that little story that my son told his children. Now that I am a cooking grandmother I can understand my mother’s slip. She hadn’t intended to be cruel. She had intended to stress the importance of her words. Scott never again entered my mother’s kitchen when she was cooking. It was a lesson hard learned, but it was a memory that brought laughter to all our throats while Scott stirred the pot that was simmering on the stove and said, “I was only trying to help.”

And when the meal was served and we all sat at the table and held hands as my grandson gave the blessing I started to cry and said, “Dear God, please tell my mother how very much we miss her wonderful cooking. I’m not even up to standing in her shadow. None of us has eaten a piece of apple pie since she left us and I let Scott stir a pot on the stove.”

We had a wonderful day. I hope you did too.

This is not the memory that I had intended to share with you, but when I sat down here it just came tumbling out. My mother wasn’t perfect, but she was my best friend. I miss her so very much.

Happy Holidays, Pennie/Sandra