The Things We Forget

Mother’s Day is weird this year.

Mom’s birthday is May 11 and usually it falls within a couple of days of Mother’s Day.  My mom was an extraordinary gift giver.  For me,  it was always a struggle to get on her level for Mothers Day and her birthday, which we always treated as separate days.   She understood the struggle of people who have birthdays on or near holidays… of course, my birthday is on National Boss Day… I guess I know the struggle as well?

It just caught me off guard last month- I came across an ad for Menards or something that was like, “Make Mother’s Day Special.”  I was like, “Wow.  There is that, too.”

Growing up, I did a lot of the cooking.  It started when I was in about 5th grade, Mom got really sick over Thanksgiving and I made Thanksgiving dinner.  Up to that point, I made the occasional hot dogs  or macaroni and cheese or ramen.   But after, we realized I could more or less follow directions for cooking meals, I took over a majority of the cooking.

It made sense, because in 6th grade, I would come home from school and “get dinner started”… and once you’re trusted to boil pasta water, it’s not that big of a step to make hamburgers.  And no one every bled out from cutting themselves while making a salad.

I learned at an early age how to get food to the table at the appropriate temperature, at the same time.  Seriously, my mom would flip shit if I brought out fries 10 minutes before burgers were ready. Or a pan of baked ziti getting cold on the table while you’re still waiting for salad to come out.  I learned that you cannot use flour or granulated sugar to thicken up buttercream frosting that you carelessly made too thin.  That first year I made Thanksgiving dinner, mom talked me through the whole thing, including dressing, mashed potatoes, and gravy.  I cooked the turkey breast down because I didn’t know any better.  When I got the meal to the table, the turkey did not look like what you see in magazines, and I assumed I had messed something up.  Mom was like, “breast down is how Martha Stewart cooks her turkey”.  And it keeps the white meat from drying out.  Ever since, I’m like, “Martha Stewart can get on my level!” And I cook the damn thing breast down.

Growing up, we had a weekend routine that I continue to be in awe of.  We’d get up Saturday morning and do JJ’s soccer games/tournaments, and wrestling meets.  If Nicole and I were reffing, we did that. Often, mom would work in the concession stand or field marshal at tournaments or do whatever portion of the seemingly endless work of volunteers in youth sports organizations.  Then we’d hit the library for books.  We never had a limit- we’d each leave with a stack of books that would reach our chins.  Then the video store, back when that was a thing.  Usually we’d get 2-3 movies… some new releases, some that we had seen before.  Usually there was something for all of us to watch as a family and then something that was Rated R, which mom and dad would watch after we went to bed.  Then groceries and the feed store, then home.

After unloading the horse feed and groceries, we usually have 1-2 hours to immerse ourselves in reading.  Mom would turn on college football or PBS, while she sewed or crocheted, or quilted.  And then we had pizza. Chef Boyardee makes a pizza mix, that comes with the dough mix, sauce, and Parmesan cheese for two pizzas.  Throw some mozzeralla on top, and it was not a half bad pizza.  Once JJ got a little older though, two pizzas made as prescribed didn’t go real far in a family of five.  So, we’d get another pizza dough or use flour to thicken up the crusts.

Around the time I was in 5th grade, I was making the pizza myself.  And I got good at it.  I figured out how to make it, so that it was filling and delicious.  Pizza plus nachos made with doritos, bean dip, taco sauce, and cheddar cheese.  That is Saturday to me.

When Mom was in hospice, she explained the origin of that family tradition.  Her father had died when she was kid (11-12 years old).  Her mom was trying to raise four kids and keep a roof over their heads.  She made pizza for the family because it was cheap and it was good, and it was one thing just didn’t suck.  It was something they could look forward to for the week.  And back then, soda was just becoming a thing. They’d have glass bottles of soda and pizza, and for that night, things were okay.

The thing is, I forgot the recipe.

There was a time when I knew that recipe better than I knew the star-spangled banner.  I’ve made it a couple of times since she died, and its just not right.  Its actually kinda terrible.

I have two thoughts  on the matter- one is to let it go.  Before she died, I didn’t make pizza from scratch because it is a little bit of a beat down.  Especially when you get get a Hot and Ready at Little Ceasar’s for $5.  Or a decent frozen pizza from Aldi for $4.

But, then there is the other part of  it… that I ought to re-develop the recipe, so I can pass it down to Nico.  But he has such trash taste in food… I can’t imagine he would like it.  And that would be disappointing.

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