It’s difficult to even type ‘mother’ into the title as my mother became ‘Maman’ to me at some point during high school French, when I suppose I simply liked the sound of it. Even still, my two sisters and I each call our mother something different. And she rolls with all of her names without missing a beat.
My Maman. She loves food. And flowers and plants. And family… though not necessarily in that order. She cooked every meal every day as I grew up, as well as glorious chocolate chip cookies, cinnamon rolls and egg breads. I didn’t realize the uniqueness of that phenomenon until I was at least in high school.
And she always had a vegetable garden. Wherever we lived, she managed to turn something- from small plots of Florida’s sandy soil to an absolutely enormous pasture in Alabama- into literally an entire year’s worth of squash, tomatoes, greens, countless varieties of peas and beans… and okra. I still don’t understand how even three boiled okra pods can ‘slime’ an entire family’s worth of peas. But it’s true. She froze or canned extras of everything and we lived on it for the rest of the year.
My Maman, I believe, always wanted to live on a farm. We had a Jersey cow- Molly- that she milked for a few years. Molly had two calves that somehow found their way into our freezer in many small white packages. That trauma will be saved for another day. But my Maman wanted chickens too- and I distinctly remember my middle school self-conscious mind being horrified by the thought of living in a yard full of clucking feathered ‘friends.’
It’s truly amazing how some pieces of life come full circle. I learned from my Maman in the kitchen to some extent, but mostly by accident. I remember trying to cook a meal for a college crush and having absolutely no idea where to begin. Actually having a kitchen would have been a fine start, but even then, I truly had an embarrassingly meager knowledge base.
And I cannot even pretend that I learned a thing from the hours upon hours she spent outside in our yard. She frequently offered to share her little dirt-ridden wonderland with me (and all her tricks of the trade), but she never forced… and I never obliged. Her flower and vegetable gardens are not at all unlike ones featured on a Southern Living magazine cover, but I was focused on an entirely different world and different dream.
Years pass, and my Maman still has a lovely- albeit slightly smaller- vegetable garden. Her yard is pleasant hybrid of fruit trees and roses and flowering window boxes. And chickens. She is the proud Maman to six hens that lay eggs enough to share. And she cooks for my father… three meals a day. The cookie tin is never empty, and everyone looks forward to her rolls during the holidays.
Years have passed for me as well, and I’ve found myself desiring exactly what I always resisted, pursuing a different dream. It’s beautiful thing when we allow life to create change. Now I cannot learn enough about food. And I want nothing more than to get my hands dirty in any local farm that will teach me everything they know. Breads and treats frequently make their way into my neighbors’ mailboxes or doorsteps; and I have a patio full of flowers, herbs and vegetables.
My Maman has graciously supported all of my career choices, but I have to think her smile is a bit larger these days. And I don’t have my own chickens yet, but I think I am going to mix up a quick batch of cookies…
Happy day to the Mamans of the world, present and future. And a special ‘thank you’ to my own~