Family Ties

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 19, 2001


Surviving Mothers’ Day events Mother’s Day this year was an unexpected thrill. It was every mother’s fantasy. Besides, it was an interesting sociological experiment. Call it a slave trade. Due to a debilitating foot injury, I was flat on my back for Mother’s Day, with my foot elevated, thus requiring the family to wait on me. This was a fun idea for all…in the beginning. For Mother’s Day, each had given me a booklet of love coupons they had made in school. Things like, good for one room cleaning, one nightmare-free evening of homework, etc. These coupons were absolutely adorable, and very timely as I lay helpless on the bed. I cashed in my son’s coupons immediately. He regretted not taking a friend’s suggestion that they put an expiration date of the day after Mother’s Day on all of them. My daughter’s coupon book was lengthier, containing some smaller chores like feeding the pets. She hastened to amend that to feeding only the fish, which are a 10th of the animal population around here. I’m not sure if the fish got fed; they were definitely on their own. But the coupons couldn’t possibly cover all the things I needed to ask them to do because of my complete inability to walk. Whatever it was, they were happy to do it, for a while. But soon it became easier just to hobble around and get it myself. Particularly challenging were things that they actually had to find. They didn’t mind getting something occasionally, but if they had to find it before getting it; that was another matter. And soon the answer to most things was, “I can’t find it.” After the search engines ceased to work, they just didn’t hear me so well. It’s a good thing my husband was home. When my little slaves couldn’t help me, the big one came through. We had no particular plans for a big holiday anyway, so I asked my husband to cook something yummy for us to hang around and enjoy. My husband is a superb gourmet cook, and a superbly messy cook. Gourmet food is an art, requiring lots of minute details, many of which require their own pot. Eating my husband’s food is wonderful; cleaning up after him is considerably less wonderful. But the menu today was simple. I asked for something I like only when he makes it, shepherd’s pie. He was so flattered he began to greatly elaborate on his recipe. As I listened to his plans, mentally tallying the pots, I began to feel sorry for him having to clean up his own mess. The kids were mortified by the plan, because it meant that they would have to get their own separate dinner. The family short order cook was incapacitated, and Dad would make them eat the house offering or get what they wanted themselves. My husband did boil up a batch of pasta, the house staple. My daughter was planning to make macaroni and cheese for herself and her brother, until she discovered the absence of cream (we’re not talking Easy-Mac here.) This realization didn’t occur until the pasta was already covered with cheese. Everyone insured her that cheese melted on pasta would be just as good, so she tried it. My son stopped staring at the pile of shepherd’s pie in front of him and studied his sister, hoping she would approve the mac-and-cheese mutation and offer some to him. She gave up after three bites, dashing his hopes for anything anyone else would make him. Only the dog was left, and he’s always happy to just chew himself. After all, the kids hadn’t signed on for cooking. This place is unlike most households, where processed foods make self-sufficiency easy. In our house, pantry items are the means to an end, rather than an end in itself. So my son was lucky he was able to score some canned pineapple, which he had for dinner on Mother’s Day. Both kids actually got their own milk that night. My daughter went hungry the next day because she couldn’t bring herself to put pasta in the microwave. Fortunately, such helplessness was short-lived. Tonight she made delicious tacos for everyone. As I proudly watched my capable new chef, I thought to myself, “Thank God Almighty, I’m free at last.” MARY ANN FITZMORRIS writes this column every Saturday for L’Observateur.