I went to a funeral yesterday. My friend’s mom had died. My friend has 3 sisters and a brother, and 4 of the 5 kids got up to speak about their mom.
There is a scene in City Slickers, just after Curly’s funeral, where Billy Crystal starts reflecting on his status as a human being. His friends check the time and money changes hands. They know that sooner or later Billy’s going to comment on the existential truth of life…that it ends. He’s surprised they don’t think the same way.
I guess I’m a bit like Billy Crystal. After listening to the heartfelt feelings and memories of their mother, I noticed a thread that connected them. It was her cooking. She cooked, and baked, and canned and preserved. It became evident that the kitchen was the heart of their home. The smells, the feelings, the community of their family centered around it.
I came to the realization that this was not the case in my family. Eating was something that everyone in the family had to do, but my mom took no joy in it–it was a chore, a duty. I remember her greasy chicken, her dinners where everything on the plate was some shade of yellow, her bland Christmas dinners. She had a schedule that she never altered. She didn’t have to think when she cooked. She bought the same groceries every week. She never added garlic or herbs or spices unless it was salt and pepper and possibly Worcestershire sauce. She made chocolate cake with mocha frosting for birthdays. Every Saturday night she made cinnamon rolls for Sunday breakfast.
What WAS the heart of our home? The grand piano. Mom meditated by practicing, we all had lessons, we listened to Mom’s and Dad’s lessons, Dad played the trumpet literature and Mom accompanied him. We listened to classical radio when there weren’t students coming in. We all practiced our instruments–I did piano, trumpet and guitar. Ted did piano and percussion (rattling all the dishes in the house for hours), Joe did piano and French Horn. We sang and we played in the Rounds quintet for Christmas and Easter and Reformation Day in church. Everything in our home revolved around music. There were concerts and band camps and recitals going on throughout my childhood. I remember nearly every concert my mom gave at the college.
Mom was a very special lady. One of her students was a very fine pianist but she started having some problems. It was discovered that she had a brain tumor. In the operation that saved her life, the side effects were complete loss of control of her hands. Did she stop lessons? No. My mom became her physical therapist. She designed lessons that helped her student reacquire her fine motor control when the doctors had written her off. That woman worked extremely hard in the face of overwhelming circumstance.
My mom had developed a learning system that could be applied to music and the students that employed this system were soon playing well beyond their peers.
Mom also did arrangements of hymns for our weird band–2 trumpets, Horn, percussion and organ. I know she heard them in her head first. She and my dad had jam sessions with some of the kids from the college. They, too, developed a “feel” for music and improvisation.
Obviously, I’m focusing on my mom in this post. My Dad was extremely important to me, but since I’m a mom, and I’d just come from a mother’s funeral, I started wondering what my legacy would be.
I haven’t really influenced that many people. I haven’t successfully taught that many. Some might recognize my addiction to jams and jellies as witnessed by the cases and cases and CASES of them in my garage. I am not a foodie like my daughter, but I do experiment and 9/10 times, my Thanksgiving and Christmas and Easter dinners are unique. The dressing is from homemade herbed cornbread. The pickles are mine, the jelly–mine, the cranberry sauce–mine, the gravy is a French warm, dark sauce, the broth is mine, and the desserts? Wow. But only my kids know this. All of them cook. All of them played an instrument. All of them took ballet.
I have absolutely no idea what my legacy is, if I have one.