Today I made my beloved mother-in-law’s bran muffins. I had a slue of fresh, organic blueberries, and decided to add them to her recipe.
Mom’s bran muffins were legendary. You couldn’t imagine how they could be good for you; they were just tooo delicious. Hers often had dates (which I adore), and always tons of nuts. I made a scant half of these today w/out nuts, as my own beloved doesn’t like them. And since he also doesn’t like dates, they’re chockfull of blueberries.
On the notecard in Mom’s careful, English teacher handwriting, she lists the ingredients, neatly entered in 2 columns. They’re not, however, in the order you put the ingredients in, which is interesting to me. Mom was very organised, as well as an excellent cook. Nothing terribly fancy (well, except for the 7-minute frosting she always put on my birthday cake!). So I have to wonder what the order is that was in her head when she wrote this down for me.
It’s a rare day I don’t think of my old people: my mother- and father-in-law; my blood mother & father; my grandmothers & great-aunts. But Mom was something rare — not only my family-by-marriage, she was a dear friend, a mentor, and a role model unparalleled. My own mother & father had a sometimes rocky marriage — a divorce, a remarriage to each other, long separations for my father’s work that led to hot&cold reunions. So modelling my marriage on Mother’s & Daddy’s would be an exercise in futility, if not failure. They certainly loved each other — no one doubted that. But as they aged, they didn’t grow more alike, or even more close, as Mom & Dad seemed to.
Unlike my own parents, Mom & Dad did so many things together. They played dominoes almost daily. In fact, for weeks on end it would be daily, interrupted only by a doctor’s appointment, or a trip (by Mom) to lunch w/ old friends from the school where she taught 20+ years. They went on most errands together, making of a grocery run a small outing. Sometimes taking a snack, sometimes stopping by the Princess Drive-In for a burger. Occasionally Mom could persuade Dad to play Scrabble, which she excelled at. In part because she was a verrry creative cheat, making up words that sounded true, and reminding you — when you thought about challenging her — that it would cost you 50 points if you were wrong. I mean, a spigot MIGHT be a differently masted frigate, right? After all, she had graduate work in Shakespeare & Chaucer!
They volunteered together, working at bagging food for the many hungry in their county. Dad worked on the rural fire department board, & Mom gave her time to the nearby library. Both were salt-of-the-earth types: you could depend on them like gravity. They were always there. Until they weren’t… Still, Mom remains one of my most influential role models: teacher, wife, mother. Reader, lover of birds & natural history. Learning the names & calls of all her birds, and spending hours weekly feeding them.
But most of all, I learned from Mom how to be a wife of independence, and a mother of adult children. Ask her for advice (something I love to offer!), and Mom would demur, refusing to weigh in. She was respectful of privacy almost to a fault: sometimes when I really wanted her opinion, I’d just have to lump it. That’s not bad modelling for a congenital busy body.
I miss you, Mom. It’s a rare day I don’t thank you for teaching me to cook (once I called her long distance — $1/minute — to find out how to make stuffing and put it in the turkey). For showing me the difference a great teacher makes. For leading me by love. Not to mention perfect bran muffins.