Sunday, May 10, 2009

My Mother's Legacy: Tangible Love

(Photo is of my mother, Ruthie Arnold, and one of her grandchildren, Tori, ordering off the menu at American Girl tea room in Chicago, on an Us Girls Only afternoon out.)
In honor of Mother's Day, I'm departing from brain talk to veer into heart talk.....

Years ago, I wrote a book with my mom called Help! I’m Turning Into My Mother.

Little did I know that the older I would get the more like her I would come to be, particularly in her knack for hostessing, cooking and comforting.

I have so many memories of watching my mom serving coffee, thick slices of homemade cake (in the days before she went on a healthy eating plan), and conversation to some hurting soul at our kitchen table.

I watched the weekly ritual of my mother, dressed in her high heels, Sunday dress and apron, popping a roast in the oven -- big enough to serve surprise company after church.

I would sometimes accompany her as she carried a casserole to someone who just had a baby, or lost a loved one, and marvel at the natural ease at which she knew exactly what to say or do to cheer or comfort.

So, when heard Meryl Streep read this poem by Julia Kasdorf in the Garrison Keillor Movie “Prairie Home Companion” -- it reminded me so much of my mom’s legacy to me that I sent her a copy for Mother’s Day.

What I Learned From My Mother

by Julia Kasdorf

I learned from my mother how to love the living,

to have plenty of vases on hand in case you have to rush to the hospital with peonies cut from the lawn, black ants still stuck to the buds.

I learned to save jars large enough to hold fruit salad for a whole grieving household,to cube home-canned pears and peaches, to slice through maroon grape skins and flick out the seeds with a knife point.

I learned to attend viewing even if I didn't know the deceased, to press the moist hands of the living, to look in their eyes and offer sympathy, as though I understood loss even then.

I learned that whatever we say means nothing, what anyone will remember is that we came.

I learned to believe I had the power to ease awful pains materially like an angel.

Like a doctor, I learned to create from another's suffering my own usefulness, and once you know how to do this, you can never refuse.

To every house you enter, you must offer healing: a chocolate cake you baked yourself, the blessing of your voice, your chaste touch.


My husband Greg and I paused the other day, in between our busy lives of caring for each other, our family and a broad circle of friends and had to laugh. This month alone we’ve cared for a new widow, a writer close to suicide, and several friends who needed their hands held and hurts tended and a hot meal to fortify their soul…. not to mention our Big Fat Blended Family!

And every time I serve up a helping of tangible love I think, “Yep, I’m turning into my mother.” And smile.

No comments:

Post a Comment