Here is a poem about cooking, life, her mom, and Thanksgiving by my classmate,
Mary Lou Meyers.
Mother took a slice out of a whole life,
her kitchen life and made it do———- wonders.
Her garden operetta when the weather was better,
but her kitchen affair carried on all year kept us together,
strategic prayer mingled with wishful thinking provided missing ingredients.
She meted out justice in between stints with the pot stick and rolling pin.
After a drink of coffee, grounds boiled beyond repair, she steadied herself.
We stormed the fortress every morning, groggy and out of sorts,
she plied us with eggs and Taylor’s ham, French toast and raspberry jam,
or in the leisure summer lift, blueberry and apple pancakes a perfect fit.
How often “onion tears” poured into the Pyrex bowl, we’ll never know,
but they were dried and put away when mother turned our way.
All those sheets yapping at the breeze could only account for frivolity.
Profound brown eyes still probed,
spoke of Goethe, Schiller, and Rilke with pride,
and her other secret German life,
her thespian dreams, peacenik schemes after World War I,
always there each time we had the need to know.
Behind closed doors celebrating baking rites,
she conjured up pineapple upside down for our flagging appetites,
treated colds with hardy chicken stock,
broad noodles to get a grip on our sniffling;
upset stomach with peppermint tea and honey.
A meat grinder was a reminder of processing to our needs,
grizzled chuck spewing out ground beef, fatty pork into refined bratwurst.
a canning factory to ensure summer’s bounty would be winter’s cure.
She pressed into service all manner of whirl-a-beaters and kitchen gadgetry,
spritz stars and hohnchen( little horns) on a Christmas baking spree,
all the scraps of dough we baked off like free-formed anomalies
with butter, sugar, and cinnamon as we pleased.
No pot-peaking allowed, but aromatic smells abounded in the sultry air.
We took our chances, timed her outside trips,
trimmed icing with our finger tips,
stole cookies at her faraway glances,
snipped away at the apple pie,
freezer burn when we dipped into home churned ice cream.
While mother was busy making hors d’oeuvres,
we were snacking and sitting pretty.
“Let’s pretend company came early,” my brother conspired.
Dizzy with pretentiousness, we answered our own doorbell chime
just to see mother do a “tailspin” one more time.
Punishment wasn’t enough to break our sacred trust,
we were a part of the conspiracy to prop mother up,
unlike American society then snubbing the talents of the little woman,
backbone of the “awe-inspiring man.”
She was never lost in dad’s identity nor foundered in his bailiwick,
shined whenever she had a mind to working circles around everyone.
We feasted on that, but years later I learned it was the least of it.
“I can do anything I put my hands and heart to!”
Set adrift in marriage my attempts were more like a clumsy attack,
stuffing and fitting a twenty pounder on a rack when basting was the key,
never letting anything be, fester or dry-up, but like a pump forever priming,
especially children when they came along. The outcome was what counted.
With commanding hands, she washed our lies with homemade lye soap,
with a firm voice she handed out decrees,
the kitchen was still a hands-off policy, hoping for us
a cookie cutter perfection with tranquility, but knowing better.
The kitchen table became the clearing house for our young ideas
where our charging adolescent drives were psychoanalyzed
as her fingers kneaded expertly all those sassy undertones.
“Nah,” she would say as if to warn us with earthy overtones,
the tantalizing odor of succulence to be denied the luscious flesh
of the pink cantaloupe for the green near the rind:
“Waste not, want not!” She would say, save for another day.
She soothed first, then smothered in an instant appeal, “get rid of it,”
those feelings which come unannounced inundating the young,
tormented accounts because we allowed them their crippling space.
The little we had to do, set the table, dry dishes, and put-away,
in-between German translations and poetry with her expertise.
She had little expectancy of me,
a hausfrau was not who she wanted me to be,
hoping college would provide a literary lifestyle and a soul mate.
Her great fear was her daughter would be chained to the kitchen.
while she was anchored there for the rest of her years.
She left clearly marked jars of chicken soup on the day she died.
After we wandered off to college, our new jobs,
she breathed in the excitement, rarely asked for help,
“Just sit there and talk,” she would say, “that’s enough in itself,”
lifting our ambitions to an even higher plane,
never charging us with the mundane,
she could accomplish on her own, blindfolded.
Or when dad developed noticeable gaps,
we engaged in animated conversation with company.
She held our lives together in her nimble fingers,
a packet of fresh yeast set to rise on the warming gas pilot,
blended in with flour, a pinch of salt,
pommeling dough to help us grow,
a teaspoon of sugar added to beaten egg whites
to help us stand upright with her sweet stiffening.
After fortifying with a cup of Century tea,
she helped us shape our destiny,
emphasizing the best she could command in our outstretched hands.
She could have been anything she pleased,
but chose us, appeasing God.
Finally we understand. I have the same look of re-assignment
in our last Thanksgiving photograph together.