Moms are Not Perfect
When I entered my sixth decade – the one in which my own mother left this world – I began unconsciously drawing parallels. The scariest part was comparing the state of my health to hers at the same age. Fortunately, I seem to have inherited my father’s family’s genes in that regard. Others flashbacks to mom occurred when offering motherly direction to my grown daughter, perpetually second-guessing myself. But the most recent revelation happened after using one of my mom’s recipes for a batch of Greek cookies.
The amount of butter, flour and sugar (moms also believed heartily in Crisco the last time she made these) for this recipe seemed to differ with every cookie recipe I encountered. “Ah,” I told myself. “But Mom’s koulourakia were the most beautiful cookies ever.” So I defaulted to the recipe she had tapped out at least 30 years before on her electric typewriter on the back of a piece of stationery that was once used for business correspondence for my father’s piano store.
As I added sugar, creaming the butter mixture that would eventually receive buckets of flour to make it into roll-worthy dough, I smiled inwardly. Mom was always trying to improve on her culinary results. Me? Not a concern. Earlier that day, I had boasted on Facebook about making these traditional cookies using a stock photo to show my friends and family how the final product was supposed to turn out. So the pressure was on. The prize, while admittedly delicious, was trays of relatively flat cookies – you could call them the relaxed, yoga edition of a centuries-old Greek treat. I also admitted on Facebook a few hours later that they reminded me of a scene out the movie Betelgeuse – where the bewildered recently-deceased young couple makes their way to their purgatory facilitator’s desk and on the way see flattened-out people going by on clothes lines. My cookies should be up on that line.
What I now realize is that while Mom’s talents were revealed in the tangible results of her culinary efforts, she wasn’t great at writing down every detail, even if she tried to do so for posterity. Old country recipes are not given to express wording. A “pinch” of this and a “dollop” of that really have no measurement, after all. Next time perhaps I will look for every recipe for these cookies that I can find and see they will turn out like the picture I prematurely posted.
Cooking isn’t the only thing for which I had canonized my mom, however. She was the sweetest person, the most fashionable lady, the most fervent believer, the best mom, the most loving yiayia, the best homemaker – and on and on. It takes time for a daughter to find herself in all the shadow-casting such a woman can create. In time, I have had to learn to appreciate my own gifts and in the end, have not given the same advice to my own daughter that my mother gave to me on a host of matters. Different eras, different realities and different generational viewpoints can take their toll on even the most saintly of maternal memories. While Mom found profound meaning and purpose in serving her family, I take stock in other pursuits as well.
Although I may not be as buttery-sweet as my mom, I might become just as good a mom in my own unique way. True, I can’t cook as well as she can, but I can create as much warmth in my home. And while I now realize she was not perfect after all, I can only hope that my own daughter, instead of putting me on some kind of pedestal, eventually understands that we all just do the best we can while we’re here.
We are not put on this earth to be anyone but ourselves. And like that dapper angel, played by Cary Grant, says in The Bishop’s Wife (my favorite Christmas movie of all time), “We all come from our own little planets. That's why we're all different. That's what makes life interesting.”
No. Mom was not perfect. But she will always rank up there with the best of them.