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sesame street swedish chef

I love you, a bushel and a peck!
A bushel and a peck, and a hug around the neck!
A hug around the neck, and a barrel and a heap

The ingredients of a life fill in the dash between birth and death. My mother used them lavishly, colorfully and with abandon.

My mother, undaunted by her own strict and occasionally domineering mother, was unfazed at times when she sought independence. As a teenager living in New York, my mother dreamed of cozy cottages and country climes. She had seen a wooden rocking chair and wanted to purchase it for her room. My grandmother felt it was unnecessary and impractical in their modest-sized apartment. My mother was told that she could not get it. Those are fighting words for my mother. She purchased that chair and brought it home, remarkably, on the New York subway system. Through many incarnations, and paint colors, that rocking chair has traveled through several moves across the country and today sits in her home office.

My mother did things on her own timetable and didn’t let the seemingly impossible stop her. Where I am punctual, my mother found the concept of time to be more fluid. If we were supposed to be somewhere in five minutes, that was enough time for her to put on nail polish before we headed into the car.

When I was a teenager, my family moved to New Orleans for a number of years. Mom and Dad had to acclimate to the weather, so hot and humid compared to our New England winters, and become accustomed to a brand new way of life. Both of my parents worked and had to figure out how to maneuver in their new environment while trying to find their way around the city. In the days before Mapquest, and the difficulty in driving in the city while holding a large paper map, it was necessary to remember the minimum number of routes to arrive at your destination. On one shopping excursion, my mother had missed her turn and did not know another way to get back to the Mall. As I was a teenager, fresh from driving lessons and my license still warm, I told my mother that the sign said “No Left Turns.” My mother’s steely reply: “Wanna Bet?”

How could I turn out any other way than strong, determined, caring, and possessing a wit and absurd sense of humor? Even in the horrors of losing my mother to ALS, our quirky brand of love and humor prevailed. My mother told me that the doctor said to her that it is very important for people with ALS to breathe. I looked at her, and said, “Mom, tell the doctor it is important for all patients to breathe.” It took a moment and then, through our shared fear and heartbreak, my mother threw her head back and laughed. I miss that so much.

My mother gifted me bits, pieces and pinches of love, chutzpah, humor, deep intention, perfectionism, creativity, strength, determination, independence and the directive to think about others first. I am held together with the glue of family. We are responsible for each other and are made up of basic truths and a profound sense of belonging. We love all of the members of our family tree because they are “ours.” Mom loved us a bushel and a peck. She sang that song to each of her 15 grandchildren and 5 great grandchildren. When in doubt, buy balloons or flowers. Even a cup of coffee tastes better when someone else makes it and gives it to you. Two cookies – one in each hand is a balanced meal. The most important lesson in life is to be a mensch. Recipes handed down always have notes in the margins.

Stirred up as I am about injustice, I can be whipped into a froth of self-righteousness and a fight for the underdog. I can stew for a long time, but would prefer to be light hearted. Blending all these parts together and layers of empathy and kindness makes a dessert so precious that it only comes once a lifetime. For now, my mother is an Angel Cake but she gave me the sweetest parts of my nature and the nuttiest parts of my brain. It all begins and ends with great laughter and one slice of life is never enough. The recipe is handed down from generation to generation and now it is my turn to create the sweetness and keep the crust from getting too hard. Have you been served?

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Weekly word challenge – a pinch of me to share with you
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