**This post was written pre-Covid days. I’m looking forward to visiting my parents again soon!
Blinking, I open my eyes. What awakened me? After a few moments of consciousness, I recognize it. The smell of marinara on the stove, mixed with a little – cake?
I have come to stay with my parents for a few days. It’s hard to step back into that role as daughter, even for a short time. I guess I can sympathize more with my college-age son now, at Christmas holidays!
The aromas coming from the kitchen must have filtered into my subconscious, because I’ve been remembering, or maybe dreaming of, my mother in the kitchen many years ago. I close my eyes and revisit that time.
The morning sun shines through the open shades, touching the counters with brilliant beams. It’s warm in the room, from the heat of the oven.
Mama is bustling around the kitchen, apron strings waving behind her, the flags of a ship at full sail.
Her hands never stop moving. Stirring, pouring, opening cabinets and drawers.
She sees me, smiles, and nods to the plate on the counter.
“Your dad left you breakfast, if you want some. He had to get out of my way, because I need to cook for the dinner with the Andrews tonight and the potluck at church tomorrow.”
My daddy has always been in charge of breakfast. They are always hearty, farmer breakfasts – bacon and eggs, toast, fruit. He loves to spice up the eggs, which sometimes makes me crazy. Cheese is fine, but garlic? Yuck.
As I eat, I watch my mother.
She’s not a clean-up-as-you-go cook. There are heaped-up mixing bowls and utensils in the sink. A modern artwork of spice and sauce covers the counters.
But, oh, the smells! The rising pound cake in the oven, the top just beginning to brown. The comforting sight and sound of marinara sauce bubbling on the stove, the tangy bite of the onions she is dicing, her fingers moving so fast I always worry she will cut herself. She never does.
She grins at me, wiping the onion-tears from her eyes with a sleeve.
“Great. Put your dishes in the dishwasher then turn off the sauce. Bring the ricotta out of the frig. We can put together the lasagna for tonight.”
Now I swing my legs out over the bed as I rise. Time to face the day. I throw on a robe and slippers and head into their new kitchen in a different house. At the doorway, I peer in before making my presence known.
Mom moves slower now. She still wears an apron (is it the same one?!) but there are no strings flapping behind her on this day. I see her hesitate, thinking, then reach for the tattered old recipe card, lips moving without sound as she read the ingredients.
Turning to the refrigerator, she bends to get ricotta cheese from a lower shelf. She grunts a little as she straightens, rubbing her back.
Next she takes the cheese and some Italian spices to the small round kitchen table. She sits down carefully and begins adding the spices and some salt and pepper to the cheese, stirring as fast as I remember from long ago.
A sunbeam flits through the window, lighting up her face. She is still my beautiful mother, although her face is lined with age and lifelong cares now. In spite of her light hair that resisted gray for so long, sparkles of it shine through now.
She hears me and turns – nothing wrong with her hearing! She smiles and with that same lilt, asks,