A friend of mine in the flower business always says that Mother’s Day at a florist shop is the busiest and most grueling day of the year. And I believe it! Being a mother is a pretty busy and grueling (and often thankless) job itself.
I feel incredibly lucky, though, both as a daughter and as a mother, that I had the love and support of my mom, Shirley Sager. If you have read almost anything I've ever written, you will already know that I consider my mom to be one of the best people who ever walked the Earth. She was loving and nonjudgmental and genuinely interested in every person she met! Not that she was a perfect person by any means. She had her faults like anyone - she was indecisive and slow moving, which has probably led to me being a very quick decision-maker! But now that she is gone, I realize that I loved her for her faults just as much as her virtues.
With Mother's Day coming around the corner, I'm thinking about her a lot. And while I could tell one of the many stories about Mom which highlights all those parts of motherhood (and life) that she did flawlessly, I'd like to tell you one of my favorite funny stories about Mom. It may seem like a story about her faults, but really, it's about how much I love and miss her.
This is known in my family as the famous green pepper incident and if Don was reading this blog, he'd say, "not again!" But I'll tell him to give this one a miss . . .
So, Mom was not a cook. The day she married my dad she was 27 years old and her entire "cooking repertoire" was boiling water for tea and making toast. While my family always laughed at her lack of cooking skills, I realize now that Mom just had different priorities than most of her peers. In those days, my mom was considered an "old maid" by the time she got married. But she was anything but the stereotype of an old maid. She had spent her early twenties as a semi-professional singer, a stewardess (that was the term!) and a solo traveler. She loved fun and adventure, and learning to cook was low on her priority list!
Eventually, though, Mom had four kids to feed (back in the day when mothers were expected to do all the cooking!). In order to survive, Mom learned five recipes by heart and produced them week after week in the exact same order:
Sunday: roast of beef (overcooked and dry) with frozen peas and mashed potatoes.
Monday: left over roast made into something unrecognizable served with either frozen peas or carrots.
Tuesday: meatloaf with frozen peas and boiled potatoes.
Wednesday: fried pork chops with tinned creamed corn and boiled potatoes.
Thursday: sausages with mashed potatoes and frozen peas and carrots.
Friday (my personal favorite): frozen tv dinners.
Saturday: take-out Kentucky Fried chicken, with French fries and that soggy coleslaw that came with it.
And repeat . . .
So, you can imagine my complete shock when I arrived home from school one Wednesday and there were no pork chops frying in the pan.
I remember asking, “So what's for dinner?”
She replied, with some pride and excitement, "I am making something gourmet."
“Oh”, I said, “And what is that?"
"Stuffed Green Peppers!"
After some further discussion, I realized that Mom’s gourmet meal consisted solely of stuffing raw ground beef into hollowed out green peppers. Poor Mom never had a sense of smell, so didn't really understand the concept of adding spices to a dish. She also didn't think of adding bread crumbs or eggs to the mixture, or making sides to round out the meal. Instead, she had simply plopped three peppers filled with ground beef onto a Pyrex dish and flung the dish into the oven.
I remember peering into the oven and noticing that the ground beef looked suspiciously pink. Around that time, my dad called from the TV room, "Shirley, when will dinner be ready? I'm starving."
"Soon," Mom called back, cranking the oven as high as it could go. We both watched the peppers intently as they quickly turned black and shriveled, which probably would have been fine had the entire Pyrex dish not exploded - loudly, and into a hundred pieces!
I remember Dad calling anxiously from the TV room, "What was that?"
"Nothing," Mom replied as she opened the oven door and began the valiant attempt to save the little green peppers. Never one to waste a thing (and there was nothing else to serve anyway), Mom carefully inspected each pepper and removed all the tiny shards of glass she could find within the blackened pepper flesh and pink ground. She then scooped the slightly mangled pieces of pepper together and placed one pepper (more or less) onto each plate to be served.
I'll never forget the suspicious look on my dad's face as he prodded the lump of pepper and raw beef with his fork. I'll give him some credit that he tried to make the most of it and picked up a fairly generous portion of the meal with his fork. Unfortunately, that first bite contained one or two glass shares, which he bit down onto (hard!). Dad spat out the entire mouthful (thank goodness) and exclaimed with total sincerity, "Shirley, you are trying to kill me!" Without another word, he walked out the door, got in the car, and drove to McDonalds.
Needless to say, it was back to pork chops the following Wednesday!
It also probably comes as no surprise that it took many years before poor Mom tried a new dish again, and that I never inherited any beloved family recipes. In fact, I have a very strong aversion to pork chops, roasts and mushy peas. But I was the lucky beneficiary of so much more.
Mom couldn't really care less about food, but she cared enormously about people. She was always the last to finish a meal, and while she blamed that fact on her "small esophagus" I think it was probably just that she spent most of dinner talking to the people seated at the table. That was the most important part of the meal for her.
She could talk to anyone and she talked to everyone. Even as an older person (when it's so easy to close up), she chatted at length with every clerk, every bank teller, and every one of my kid's friends. And she saw the best in everyone. Mom met people where they were.
I wrote our bestselling Mothers Typewriter Sign with my own Mom in mind. What sentiments would encapsulate Motherhood and what would Mom want to be given? Mom always loved the written word and used it as a form of showing her love. In fact, her long hand-written letters are what inspired the line in the first place.
So, if you haven't already read through our Mothers Typewriter Sign or Tea Towel, I encourage you to do so now. It may look like a long read, but I assure you, it will make you think about all the Mothers in your life. I am certain any Mother you think of, who is out there doing her best, would appreciate its words.
Mothers deserve all the praise in the world, not only on Mothers Day, but every day. Our Typewriter Tea Towels & Wooden Signs are our special ode to Mothers.
This year on Mother's Day, like every day, I'll be thinking of Mom. Maybe I'll even make some stuffed green peppers in her honor!