We all have a person who influences us during our formative year when we, like a thirsty sponge, soak up all the spills on our path. For me, my most significant influence was my mother. My mother was a modest, reserve person who spoke softly, yet her voice and actions resonated loudly with her impressionable young daughter. I like to say that I got my gift of gab, engaging personality, and disdain for fussing and fighting from my father and my heart and soul from my mother.
She had a tremendous impact on the person I am today. She instilled in me her love of reading and learning. She introduced me to reading at a young age when she gave me my first book, “The Lonely Doll.” I, like her, can get lost between the pages of a good book, devouring a novel in one sitting. When my mother was a young girl, she would bring a flashlight under the covers, so her parents didn’t know she was reading well past her bedtime. I never had to use a flashlight; she let me read long after I should have been asleep knowing the power of an engaging story. My mother loved learning and school, and she encouraged me to excel and work hard with my studies. She was proud of my academic achievements, especially when I graduated from college.
When it came to cooking, she was a rock star. I learned from an early age to cook sitting on the kitchen counter watching her. And as I became older, I was her assistant, chopping, stirring, mixing. When I was ready, she gave me the vital task of holding my grandmother Profy’s monogrammed cast iron Pizzle mold over the electric burner: counting out the seconds until it was time to turn to the other side. She liked her Pizzles thin and crisp. And I made them to her specifications.
She was a passionate gardener who loved to spend hours in the garden, never tiring. I inherited her love of flowers, and I told her we had dirt, not blood running through our veins. She didn’t have a green thumb; she had ten green fingers. Whatever she planted morphed to gigantic proportions. Her veggies and flowers rivaled the blue ribbon winners at a country fair.
Most importantly, I learned from my mother that family is everything. She treated everyone well, but her family was her heart. And we all felt her love.
After I married, I moved over three hundred miles from my mother. I spoke with her every day. We’d talk about cooking, gardening, and what was going on with my children and grandchildren. She loved to hear about her great-grandchildren Alexander, Charlotte, and Madeline. They weren’t ordinary children; they were outstanding, according to my mother.
She used to say to me that getting old wasn’t any fun. And who would have thought she would become so lazy. I said, “You’ve never been lazy; it’s time for you to relax.” But that wasn’t her. Instead, she wanted to be gardening, cooking, tiling the vestibule, hanging wallpaper, painting, laying stone for a new patio, or making her ceramics. And if the toilet needed new insides, why call a plumber, she could fix it herself.
That was my mother, a genuinely remarkable woman. Hers was an extraordinarily long life, all ninety-seven years.
I will miss her every day for the rest of my life. She has left her tremendous legacy with me, and I have dedicated my blog, “Good Dinner Mrs. Mellen,” to her.