The scent wafted out the open windows as I walked up the driveway. Even before I flung open the aluminum storm door, I knew what I’d see on the kitchen counter: a plate piled high with hermits — moist, spicy, raisiny, still warm from the oven.
Every couple of days a different scent greeted me on the driveway: oatmeal raisin cookies with a touch of cinnamon and clove. Crumbly coffee cake with the melt-in-your-mouth topping, spices cutting a dark rivulet through the center of each slice. Betty Crocker brownies, edges crunchy, middle gooey. Some afternoons I opened the fridge to glimpse chocolate pudding spooned smooth into four dainty glass cups, all in a neat row and covered in Saran Wrap, beads of moisture clinging like rhinestones to the underside of the plastic. When the days turned cold and dark, she’d pull a pan of bubbling crisp from the oven, the apples cooked to tender perfection.
Later, when I was in high school, my mom rose at 5:30 a.m. on the mornings of my track or cross country meets to whip up a batch of Bisquick pancakes, “for energy” she always said. I’d wake to the sound of the metal griddle snapping shut and stumble into the bright kitchen to find a stack of floury pancakes sitting on my plate, the bottom one spongy with maple syrup.
My mom doesn’t bake much anymore, but she still demonstrates her love not so much in words or physical expression, but tangibly, in deed.
Now when she visits me in Nebraska, she irons all my cotton blouses, pleated skirts and linen pants, wanting me to enjoy the feeling of wearing fresh, crisp clothes. She Windexes the French doors, knowing the fingerprints and nose prints drive me crazy. She organizes my Tupperware drawer and polishes the silver tea set I inherited from Nana, revealing a reflective sheen beneath the tarnished gold-green. She dusts the tops of the ceiling blades and high above the kitchen cabinets, the dirty spots no one notices but me.
“There she is,” Laura Brown writes in Everything That Makes You Mom, “in the kitchen, cooking a birthday dinner, making gravy with glee, upholding holiday rituals, fighting grime. And there she is on the porch, and in the yard, doing whatever she did to make a house a home that we loved to live in and would want to return to, so naturally that we probably didn’t notice.”
It’s true, I didn’t notice everything my mom did for me back then – the hermits, the coffee cake, the cookies, the pancakes at 5:45 a.m. I took it for granted. I assumed that Norman Rockwell picture of nurturing and contentment was the way it was and the way it should be, for me, for everyone. But I remember now. And Mom, I just want to say: I am grateful.
What’s your favorite memory of your mom in the home?