суббота, 29 сентября 2012 г.

What Mothers Are For

By Carol A. Boas

Being a full-time mother is one of the highest salaried jobs in my field, since the payment is pure love.
~Mildred B. Vermont
September 1987.

The phone rings. It's my daughter Jill, calling from Indiana University, where she has just started her freshman year.

"Mom, I need my prom dress... the blue silk one with the silver belt. I think it's hanging in my closet. Can you look... NOW?"

"I can't right this second," I say.

"But Mom!" she interrupts, a refrain I suddenly realize I have missed these past few weeks. "I need it Saturday."

She has just been invited to her first college formal. I'm thrilled. But it's a quarter to five on Tuesday afternoon. Even if I find the dress, I won't make it to the post office before it closes at five o'clock.

I don't tell her I'm up to my elbows in noodles for the noodle kugels (puddings) that I'm preparing for the sixty-plus people I've invited for our Break-the-Fast dinner at the conclusion of the Yom Kippur holiday.

For an instant, my mind wanders back to the Sunday three weeks ago. Leaving Jill — and dozens of shoes, jeans, shirts, sweaters and most of the contents of her bedroom that she insisted she could not live without — at her college dorm was much more emotional than I had expected. The parent manuals do not prepare moms for that day.

My attention snaps back to the present situation.

"The short blue one, right?" I confirm, stalling for time, and beating the eggs that need to be added to the noodles draining in the colander. I'm following my Aunt Fern's noodle kugel recipe, wistfully remembering it's Jill's favorite.

"Yes! That's the one! Can you please look for it now?"

"Sure," I say. "I'll call you right back." I dump the noodles and eggs into the bowl.

"Thanks Mom. You're the best. I love you!"

My "right back" buys me the fifteen minutes I need to blend the sugar, vanilla and buttermilk into the noodles, pour the mixture into the already-greased pan, set the timer and pop the kugel into the oven.

For this instant, I'm still her best friend... I haven't been replaced by Carolyn, Scott, Stacy, Brian (who will become her husband), Joanne and the others who have punctuated her conversations each time she calls home. I'm thrilled she's made so many friends in the three long weeks she's been gone, but worry I might be losing her to the cornfields of Indiana.

I take the stairs quickly, but stop short of going into her room. Her bed's made. The dresser drawers are shut, without shirtsleeves or tank top straps dangling from them. I can see her rug. No jeans crumpled in a heap or flip-flops strewn about. Entering, I fight the urge to knock the People magazine and a stack of papers off her neatly organized desk.

I rummage through the rejects in her closet that didn't make it to college... her once favorite green T-shirt with COOL in sparkly letters, the brown suede fringed boots she absolutely had to have, the black cardigan with mother-of-pearl buttons from the GAP that she said I could borrow... left behind like me.

I call her back.

"Did you find it?"

"Yes, but it needs to go to the cleaners. There's a stain down the front."

"Can you take it NOW and get it back by tomorrow?"

I've already anticipated this request.

The yellow digital clock on the nightstand in her room screams 5:03. I do the math in my head. The kugel will come out of the oven at 5:35. I can get the dress to the cleaners before they close and plead with them to have it ready by four o'clock the next afternoon. I'll be able to get to the post office by five, send the dress Priority Mail, and, if all goes well, Jill will have her dress Friday.

This is my daughter, my first-born, away at college, and still needing me.

I remove the kugel from the oven, stopping for a moment to inhale the smell of brown sugar and vanilla oozing from the toasty brown cornflake-crumb topping blanketing the bubbling kugel, before racing to Dean Cleaners. Mrs. Kim assures me the dress will be ready the next afternoon.

I return home. The first of the three kugels I need to make has cooled. Without thinking, I put it in the freezer, which is very out of character for me. I prefer food to be served fresh, so I am puzzled that this first kugel is now in the freezer. But there is little time to put the puzzle pieces together. The dress distraction has set me back about forty-five minutes, and will set me back another forty-five minutes tomorrow when I need to zoom to both cleaners and post office.

By Wednesday afternoon at 3:45, the dress is ready. Back home, I find a box and pack the dress gingerly, so it won't wrinkle, or at least will wrinkle less. Then, much to my surprise, I find myself walking to the freezer, removing the frozen kugel, and wrapping it in aluminum foil and ice packs so it won't defrost, or at least will defrost less. I slip it into the box with the dress, the kugel sequestered into several heavy-duty plastic zippered plastic storage bags so that dress and kugel do not meet in their travels to the Indiana cornfields, and head to the post office.

It's her first Yom Kippur away from home. It's my first Yom Kippur without her. She wants the dress. I want her home. The kugel! The puzzle pieces begin to fit together.

The phone rings Friday afternoon.

"Mom, thanks so much. The dress is perfect for the formal tomorrow and everyone is soooooooo excited to have kugel to break the fast after Yom Kippur. I can't believe you did that!"

Her voice cracks. My eyes well with tears that, thankfully, she cannot see.

"I am your mother," I tell her. "That's what mothers are for."

"I love you," she says.


April 2007.

The phone rings. It's my daughter Jill, calling from Denver where she, Brian and their two sons live.

"Mom, I need my prom dress... the blue silk one with the silver belt. Do you have any idea where it is?"

I'm in the midst of making matzoh balls for our Passover seder.

"No," I answer, about to ask why she needs her prom dress from twenty years ago.

"I just got invited to a Twentieth Reunion of our Senior Prom Party and we're all supposed to wear our prom dresses. If you can find it, will you mail it to me?"

"Sure," I say, recalling a similar request from two decades ago.

"Thanks Mom, you're the best. I love you!"

I smile. I didn't lose her to the cornfields of Indiana. Over the years we have become best friends. And although married with children of her own, she still needs me.

"I love you too," I say, hanging up the phone.
Aunt Fern's Kugel

1 lb. wide noodles (cooked)
1 qt. buttermilk
4 eggs (beaten)
1/2 cup sugar
1 stick butter (room temperature)
1 tablespoon vanilla

2 cups crushed cornflakes
1/2 – 1 cup brown sugar
1/2 stick butter (melted)

Mist first six ingredients together in a large bowl.

Pour into 9 x 13 pyrex dish.

Bake at 350 for 45 minutes and remove from oven.

Cover generously with topping mixture.

Bake at 350 for 15 minutes.


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