Sunday, May 08, 2005

Thinking of Mom and Mother's Day

A gentle warning: this is going to get sappy. Sorry.

Thirteen years ago - just over a year after my new life of faith and sobriety began, and just three weeks after she retired - my mother died of a massive coronary. For obvious reasons, this has colored much of my thinking about Mother's Day. On the one hand, I think of my mother a great deal - not just when Hallmark and the restaurant industry tell me I should. On the other hand, her mortaility means that I'm not part of the "so where are you taking your mother this weekend?" crowd; I'm no longer eligible. So at times, it can seem almost like a non-event...just another day in Paradise. But today was one Mother's Day when she felt particularly close.

It started with the seafood newburg.

A group from Fourth Presbyterian Church have a standing brunch date on the 2nd Sunday of the month. And this month was no exception, even though it was Mother's Day (normally the busiest restaurant day of the year). The Fourth Church crowd had invited me several times, and I'd not made it before, for various reasons. So when the e-vite came out, I said, what the heck. The prices on the e-vite seemed reasonable for the Magnificent Mile ($7-16), and it's not like I had a full social calendar, so I said, "sure."

Now, unbeknownst to me, it turns out the restaurant, McCormick & Schmick's, is one of the priciest, richly-traditional seafood places in Chicago. And for Mothers' Day, there was no was the M&S Mother's Day Brunch Buffet - base-priced at just about double what I was hoping to spend for my meal. When we got that news (after we were seated and ready to start) I was all set to say, "You know, this little experience is just out of my league, folks. Thanks for the invitation...I'll see you later."

But then, just as I was ready to push away from the table, the voice in my head spoke up, and said, What would Helen tell you to do?

And I knew.
And I sat down and surrendered.

Helen was not a spendthrift (though God knows I certainly can be) - but she was determined to have every experience that she possibly could, and to live life as close to the top-shelf as she could. Her favorite phrase, when we were traveling, was, "So tell me...when are we going to have the opportunity to do this again?" She never mentioned Auntie Mame by name, but her life was a tribute to the classic line, "Life is a banquet, and most poor bastards are starving to death." I'm not sure she ever saw the 1989 classic "Dead Poet's Society," but she certainly believed in "sucking the marrow out of life" whenever it was even remotely possible.

One time, Mom actually had me drive her from Toledo to Cincinnati (4-1/2 hours, one way), and we stayed overnight one weekend just so she could visit to visit a restaurant called The Seafood Feast - an incredible seafood buffet she'd heard about from a friend. When she and I went to see the Smoky Mountains, she chose to stay at the hideously luxurious Jack Tar resort, The Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa in Asheville, rather than in some Motel 6 (which was much closer to our budget), because she said she'd never been to a resort before... "and, well, this one's here, so let's go!"

She'd always been furious with my late father for seeing travel as something to get from point A to point B, and never simply enjoying the journey. (For years, she'd hounded Dad to stop along the way from our home to his brother's home to tour a winery in the nearby Finger Lakes region of New York. After he died, on the way home from the funeral, we ended up stopping at three different New York wineries...)

When we went on a trip up into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan several years after Dad died, the entire trip was a series of "What's down there, down that road? Let's take a look..." She wore a five-dollar Petoskey-stone ring from that trip until the day she died, I think. The quest for the journey, for the experience, was what she craved. Given two options, she always) chose the more outrageous, the most unusual (and what I'm sure my father thought was the most whacked-out) opportunity.

Back to McCormick & Schmick's...

Crab fettucine alfredo - saffron rice - peel-n-eat shrimp - and the aforementioned seafood newburg - created an incredible gastronomic sensation. I knew, as I savored every bite, that Mom would have been in heaven. At times, I felt a little guilty - after all, it's the kind of meal I would never have even considered having on my own, on my meager budget, and will likely not have for another year or more, absent a winning lottery ticket.

But, as a friend pointed out, there is no grave upon which to place flowers - both parents believed in anatomical gifts to science, and to cremate the remains. And what the heck - I can eat cereal the rest of the week, I guess...

Thank you, God, for the gift of a woman who (given the chance) always sought the special, and the extraordinary, in her life. As I make choices about where to live, and what to do with my life and my ministry, help me remember to look for the extraordinary, and live boldly, rather than in fear and doubt. Thank you for the gift of beautiful memories of a loving mother, amidst all the laughter and tears....

And Lord, let Helen, know, please - the seafood newburg was outstanding.


Poor Mad Peter said...

Sappy? Are you kidding?? It's a great posting and sharing, Steve. Well done! It's as real as cold fresh spring watger right out of the earth. Thanks for this,


Jane Ellen+ said...

I think your mom and mine would have gotten along quite well. . . or maybe they do. (^_^)

This gave me a smile, today; thank you for sharing it.

Deanne said...

" me remember to look for the extraordinary, and live boldly, rather than in fear and doubt."

that really hit home. :)

Thanks for taking the time to blog...I check yours daily and, with very few exceptions, find them to be inspiring and thought-provoking.