In my Mom’s Kitchen

I love my mom’s kitchen. Not because it’s a fabulous kitchen. It’s pretty basic as far as kitchen’s go. It’s not that big either. You know how whenever you have company, it seems like everyone ends up in the kitchen? I’ve spent many a holiday at my parents’ house, helping prepare the meal while shooing nieces and nephews out to the living room and pushing my big little brothers out of the way. There’s barely room for Mom and her two daughters to work together, much less having to trip over the big feet of the big little brothers.

There’s a pantry in my mom’s kitchen. It’s not much of a pantry. It’s just a closet with some shelves in it. Inside, brown paper grocery bags are stacked on the floor and one paper bag stands open, stuffed with plastic bags. There are boxes of crackers and bags of chips. And there are recipes. My grandma’s recipe boxes are in there and so is the old Betty Crocker cook book that’s been around, probably since before I was born.

In the cupboard, there are liquid measuring cups. They’ve been around since my childhood too and they’ve seen better days. One is plastic – Tupperware. You can see the raised numbers marking the measurements on the side of the cup and if you look closely under good lighting, you can read the numbers. The markings used to be red but the paint has long since worn off. There’s a metal measuring cup too, just like the ones my grandma used to have in her kitchen. I’ve never had a metal measuring cup. They’d come out with those new-fangled Pyrex ones by the time I’d begun to stock my own kitchen.

The cupboards also hold a matching pair of stone wear soup mugs with a chestnut brown finish. The word soup in a darker brown is printed in various sizes and fonts all over each mug. They bring back memories of the kitchen table in the house where I grew up. I loved to fill one of those mugs with steaming tomato soup. There was usually a toasty grilled cheese sandwich right beside that mug.

My sister and I bought kitchen things for Mom at Christmas time. Some of her stuff was well past its prime. I think the old hand-held cheese grater was actually beginning to rust. Mom appreciated the new things. She said having nice kitchen equipment made cooking more enjoyable. But so much of the old stuff still remains.

Mom must have had a burst of energy this week. She invited Mark and I to come have dinner with her and Dad tonight. When my kids were little and Mark was working evenings, Mom would often invite me to come with the kids and have dinner with them. It’s been a lot of years since we’ve done that. It was nice to sit at the table and enjoy a meal in my parents’ kitchen again. Of course, there are holidays when we’re all there – sister, brothers, in-laws, nieces and nephews. It’s been a long time since it was just us, and it was nice.

I helped Mom put the finishing touches on the meal. She’d prepared a pork roast in the crock pot and there were white potatoes boiling on the stove. I offered to mash them, and Mom handed me the electric hand mixer and the small metal mixing bowl. It’s the baby of a set of three and has been the setting for many a homemade icing or sauce or some other concoction over the years. I realized that the hand masher Mom used for potatoes when I was growing up was either no longer around, or had simply been shunned in favor of the electric mixer. I kind of miss the hand-mashed potatoes. I kind of liked a few lumps in my potatoes.

When the asparagus was done cooking, Mom and I  put everything on the table and called the guys in from the living room where they were watching Wheel of Fortune and talking. We sat together, the four of us. We said grace before we ate. The food was delicious and I was full by the time I’d cleaned my plate. After dinner, Mom asked who wanted pie. She’d baked one of those frozen deals on an ancient round baking sheet sort of thing. The years have blackened it, but mom still uses it. She just covers it with aluminum foil before putting any food on it.

I tend to go through my own kitchen cupboards every few years. Cheap, old stuff gets purged as I replace it with newer and better. But maybe I should think twice next time. Maybe I should start working on making my kitchen “vintage” like my mom has done. After all, my kids will soon have kitchens of their own. And when they come back to mine, I want to serve up fond memories, just like my mom does.

Food is Love

Somewhere in my upbringing, I must have picked up on the belief that food equals love.

This weekend was one to have all of my kids at home, a make-up for two weekends ago when a winter storm kept Brad and Heather away. I took the day off on Friday so that I might prepare for this special weekend. There were things that needed doing, things like cleaning house and picking up my daughter from school. But top priority on my to-do list was grocery shopping. I simply felt that I couldn’t adequately welcome my kids back home without a well-stocked refrigerator and cupboards. I also wanted to have all of the ingredients to make the foods my kids were craving and had requested that I make for them sometime over the weekend.

My day began early on Friday. After a visit to the gym, I showered and dressed and then proceeded to make a grocery list and clip coupons. At the grocery store, I filled a cart to the brim with all the things on my list and then some. I got it all home and put away just in time to go pick up Kacey from school.

It was a beautiful, sunny day on Friday and the drive to and from Kacey’s school was pleasant. I enjoyed having one-on-one mom and daughter time in the car on the way home. And once we were back home, it wasn’t long before Connor arrived and the two of them hung out with me for a while. Kacey helped me out by making the barbecue sauce for the ribs Brad had asked me to make. When the sauce was done, I covered the ribs and wrapped them in foil. They went in the fridge to marinate overnight. Before long, Kacey’s friends, home on spring break, were beckoning her and Connor to come hang out. I agreed that Kacey could go, only because I still wanted to clean house and it would be several hours before Brad and Heather arrived anyway.

It was a quiet afternoon and early evening, but as I did my cleaning and prepared dinner, I thought how the quiet wouldn’t last. Soon Mark would come home from work. Soon kids and dogs would descend upon the tranquility and stir things up good. And they did. We had a late dinner on Friday once all had arrived. The kitchen was a mess as I had been busy preparing baked fish, sauteed zucchini, tossed salad and biscuits for a full table full of people instead of the usual two or three of us. Everyone gathered round the table to eat together and catch up with one another. All of those surfaces I’d spent the day cleaning and decluttering were soon cluttered again with car keys and phones, water bottles and various belongings. And I didn’t even mind. My kids were home. Everyone helped clean up afterwards and afterwards everyone found a place to lounge and wind down for the evening.

Saturday morning came early. Lucy was too excited, wanting to play with her pal Dacotah to bother sleeping in. I let the dogs out in the back yard and prepared to watch the chasing games begin. But they never did. Dacotah was ready to run and play, but she couldn’t get Lucy to engage. Dacotah would try to wrestle with Lucy, and Lucy would just roll over on her back. She would roll around on the ground a bit, but she wouldn’t run.

When the dogs were ready to come back in the house, I noticed that Lucy wasn’t racing up the deck steps, full speed ahead like she normally does. She took the stairs slowly, almost gingerly. She’d been doing this off and on for a few days but I’d thought maybe she’d just pulled a muscle racing around the yard like she always does. Now I was getting worried. If she wasn’t keeping pace with Dacotah, something must be wrong.

Neither Mark nor Brad thought anything serious was wrong and both suggested I wait until Monday to go to the vet, but I was worried. Mark must have been more worried than he let on too. While Heather and I went to a class at the gym, Mark called the vet. They had limited Saturday hours, but had an opening at 11:20 and could see Lucy.

I showered after the gym, then went with Mark and Lucy to the vet. We explained why we thought something was wrong. She’d gone from being fast and fearless to slow and careful. We explained the biggest red flag being the fact that she wouldn’t play with our son’s dog. Mark explained how Lucy has a habit of sleeping, curled up so tight in a ball that she must be stiff and sore when she awakens. He described her ability to lay flat on her belly with her front legs straight out in front of her, and her hind legs stretched out straight back. Maybe these were reasons for whatever was ailing her.

“I’ve never seen a dog do that before,” Mark said.

The doctor checked out Lucy’s feet and toes. He studied and felt her legs and knees. She never once whined or yelped. Finally he said, “I don’t believe there’s anything wrong in her feet or legs. Her knees are fine.” He hesitated then before saying, “I think it’s her hip.”

I felt a mild panic when he said that. I heard the words Hip Displasia in my head. I wasn’t exactly sure what it was, but had heard enough about it to know it wasn’t good. I assured myself, though that I was overreacting and doing so too soon. And then the vet said those words. He said, “Not all dogs who can stretch out as you’ve described have Hip Displasia, but most dogs who have Hip Displasia are able to stretch out that way.

“I’m going to take Lucy for an x-ray,” the vet said.

While my dog willing followed him out of the room, I googled Hip Displasia on my iPhone and learned that it wouldn’t be the end of the world if Lucy had it and that there were several forms of treatment including surgery. Still, I was keeping my fingers crossed that it wasn’t that.

Unfortunately, the finger crossing didn’t do much good. The vet and Lucy came back and it was confirmed that she has Hip Displasia. This condition, according to Wikipedia, is an abnormal formation of the hip socket that, in its more severe form, can eventually cause crippling lameness and painful arthritis of the joints.

I could feel tears beginning to sting my eyes. I know there are some who might say she’s just a dog. But she’s not just a dog to me. She’s the one who is always there for me. When I come home, she greets me as if I’m the greatest person in the world. She snuggles me when I need snuggling and she keeps me from feeling alone and lonely during those times when none of my people are around. She makes me laugh and she loves me. I love her. It makes me sad to think of her in such pain. And she was in obvious pain.

So, we were given options for treatment. Some of them are expensive. We have some thinking to do, but I’m thinking it won’t be a tough decision. We’ll figure out a way to make our puppy-girl feel better. The vet gave her some anti-inflammatory medication and said she should be feeling better in a day. She’ll need to take the meds every day, at least until we decide what course of treatment to go with.

When we came home we told the kids what was wrong. Of course they wanted to know what Lucy’s options were. As we talked about it, Mark made a comment that made me think he’d prefer to take the least expensive route, which means Lucy will eventually suffer more than she is now. With that thought in mind, tears threatened to come again. I escaped to the lower level of the house before anyone could notice. But I didn’t go unnoticed. Brad came downstairs behind me and wrapped me in a hug, saying, “Don’t cry, Mom. She’ll be okay. It’s not like you’re losing her.”

“I know,” I said. “But I’m worried that Dad doesn’t want to spend the money to help her. I can tell she’s in pain and I feel so bad. Everywhere she goes in this house, even to get to the yard, she has to travel up and down steps.”

“You guys will do what she needs,” Brad said. “I know you will.”

I didn’t know, but I felt a little better.

Brad said the ribs I’d made for him for lunch were delicious. I didn’t notice. I felt like the vet’s news had put a damper on the day.

This morning, Mark said to me, “So we need to figure out the best way to pay for Lucy’s surgery, if that’s what we decide to do.”

I felt way better then!

Brad and Heather were the earliest risers this morning. While they pampered the dogs in the living room, I prepared the biggest breakfast possible. I made bacon, scrambled eggs and hash browns. There was cinnamon toast too. We sat at the table enjoying the kind of breakfast I rarely allow myself to enjoy. Jake and Kacey slept through it all. I knew they’d rather sleep than eat.

Besides, by the time Kacey finally greeted the day, I was already on my way to making the Mexican Chicken Corn Chowder she had requested. It was done cooking just in time for her to have some for lunch.

Too soon, it was time for everyone to go back to school again. That’s always the hardest part of a visit. But Dacotah going home meant Lucy would settle down for some much-needed rest. And Kacey returned to school, only for a week. Spring break is next week, so she’ll be home again soon.

I’d better make sure I get that refrigerator stocked up again!