Some days can be sad and challenging while others can be uplifting and inspiring. Today, Mother’s Day, is one of those sad and challenging days. If you no longer have your mother, you may have done as I did and attended church today. Perhaps your church members followed an old tradition of wearing red, pink or white carnations; those of us whose mothers are deceased would have worn a white carnation.
At church you may have heard a fiery message that resurrected many thoughts of your mother from the past. During church service, your thoughts may have drifted to your mother’s last days as she struggled with difficult health challenges. Certainly your mother’s home going service comes to mind on Mother’s Day followed by that trip to the cemetery where she is buried.
Having written this column for more than twenty years, I returned to my first Mother’s Day column on May 12, 2003. It was a tough column to write since it was my first Mother’s Day without my mother who passed on August 8, 2002. Each Mother’s Day since her death, I pause to give special recognition to her in my column. While it has been many years since my mother’s passing, I still struggle to cope with her absence on this special day. Today’s thoughts speak to some sad memories of Mother’s Day, but also to happy memories of the dinner shared with family members on this day. These pleasant memories of my mother on Mother’s Day, mainly centered on the dinner table, were cemented in my mind, back in the day.
For me, there is something about the dinner table that immediately brings my mother to mind. Being a great cook, it generally starts with the kitchen, for this is where my mother loved to spend much of her time. I vividly recall images of my mother dragging out the large potato chip can in which she stored the flour used in her Saturday night baking ritual for Sunday and special meals. Even though Mother’s Day is a “day off” for mothers, preparing a meal for Mother’s Day was an exception.
As a child, Saturday night in my household, always meant that my mother would be sitting on a small step stool, preparing cakes, pies and rolls. I can still see my mother with the large, tan bowl mixing the batter to place in the various size pans. As a young child, I clung to her apron, as I climbed up in a chair to stick my finger into the mixing bowl and taste the batter. There were no instant mixes in my mother’s cabinets; everything was made from scratch. If only I could have this experience again! This experience of many years past seems to be one that happened just a few days ago.
The Saturday night baking was not the only thing that brings my mother to mind. The following day, Mother’s Day, when everyone gathered around the dinner table for the mandatory Sunday meal brings back fond memories. My mother always sat to the right of my father at the dining room table. Naturally, my father sat at the head of the table.
Was there a special place where the desserts were placed in your home? My mother placed all of the cakes, pies and other baked goods on the buffet. Did your mother wear a special apron as well as a special outfit for Mother’s Day dinner?
If your family was like mine, all of the children and grandchildren would sit at tables that extended down the hallway in order to be part of a Mother’s Day tradition that was so typical of Black family life. On this Mother’s Day, if your mother is not with you, it is hard not to miss this experience for it was one that our mothers put together and held together. Unfortunately, as old-school mothers have passed on, this Mother’s Day dinner and bonding tradition has disappeared; this type of dining experience on Mother’s Day has been left, back in the day.
My mother insisted on the very best on the dinner table for this special day. Just think about the table’s covering. You must recall those fancy, colorful table cloths with lace trim. Then there was always a centerpiece on the table. The centerpiece was as special as the day was special. There were no paper plates or cups on the dinner table for Mother Day dinners of the past. You will recall that this was one day when the good china came out of the breakfront or “china closet. As for the menu on this special day, it always included turkey as a part of the menu. Mother’s Day or any special holiday meal had to have macaroni and cheese. This dish was absolutely outstanding. My mother always had sweet potatoes topped with marshmallows and I cannot forget her homemade rolls. My mother had this unique ability to make certain that the rolls were piping hot when we sat down to dinner. Of course, I could never forget celery sticks with chopped egg stuffing. This was one of my mother’s signature items for Mother’s Day, back in the day.
Some memories are more vivid than others, so much so until I could write endlessly about a wide variety of things that took place with my mother. I would give anything for our young people today to share experiences with their mothers as many of us did in the past. No, not just the food but the behavior and conversations we had, especially at the dinner table. There was an emphasis on continuing to embrace traditional and acceptable values as we moved beyond Mother’s Day. For those that see Mother’s Day as just another holiday, I hope that you will pause and consider future Mother Day experiences as very special, in spite of the sad moments. The love, bonding with family and genuine enjoyable time we routinely had with our mothers, made Mother’s day extra special back in the day.