My mom didn’t like to cook. She did the best she could and when I was a child I didn’t realize what a terrible cook she was. She made breakfast, lunch and dinner for me and my family every day of our lives. We were never hungry, which was a big difference in her life since she grew up during the depression with an alcoholic father who often drank away the money that the family needed for food.
There was a staple in my family’s diet. My mom would make hamburger in tomato sauce. She added onion and garlic salt for flavoring. If my mom put this mixture over spaghetti noodles, we had spaghetti. If she put this mixture over macaroni noodles, she said we were having goulash. And if she served this mixture on a bun, we had sloppy joes.
My mother also didn’t like mornings. She wasn’t a night owl, always in bed by 10:30pm, but she didn’t really wake up until after 8:00am. We lived in Chicago and the mornings were often chilly and my mom wanted to send us off with something warm in our stomachs. So what does a mother who doesn’t like to cook and who doesn’t like mornings serve her children for breakfast before sending them to school? She heats milk on the stove and puts it over cold cereal!
As a child I loved walking into the kitchen and seeing my mom in her green chenille robe, cigarette hanging from the corner of her mouth, as she stirred milk in the little silver pan that always sat on the stove. My bowl with cereal and a glass with PDQ chocolate powder would be waiting on the table. After a mumbled good morning she would bring the pan to the table and pour the warm milk into my cup and bowl. We eventually bought a microwave, we kids were in high school and could make our own breakfasts and the little silver pan was moved from its space on the stove to one of the kitchen drawers.
We were cleaning out my mom’s house after her death and I opened the drawer with her pots and pans. I picked up this little silver pan and was surrounded by the feeling of love from a mother who wanted to give her children more than she had but didn’t quite have the skills or the energy to do it. A mom who did the best she could for the children she loved more than anything else. I took that pan home with me and when I see it sitting on my stove, I am flooded with thoughts of how each generation tries to make life a little better for our children and that my mom did the best she could with the skills she had to make me feel loved and cared for.