Peppers

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I was asked to write something about my mother.

Considering the critical role mothers play in Shadows and Ghosts—Edna, Judith, one Jewish, the other Gentile, it’s odd that I haven’t done it before. But these are my thoughts, random, strung a bit haphazardly….

In many ways she was like both Edna and Judith; in others, she was like neither.

A tiny woman, fragile, loose-limbed, and notoriously accident-prone, she could find the single dip in a sidewalk over which a thousand people had stepped without falling. By the end of her life, I’d lost count of all the bones she’d broken, the number of emergency rooms we’d visited.

She had a sharp mind and wicked wit, a striking contradiction to the soft delicacy of her beauty—pink skin, high cheekbones, finely sculpted nose, copper-hued hair, and wide, intense, dark eyes. Despite her constitution, she was steel-willed, determined, tenacious, and thoroughly unconventional, a sylph with the heart of a daredevil: she wanted to try everything.

Her greatest dream was to do biological research, find cures for diseases. Her teachers and guidance counselors encouraged her to go to college. But this was during the 1930’s. There was a Depression. My mother was supposed to find a job, and then a husband.

I can only imagine the discoveries she would have made had she been encouraged to pursue her dream, given the support to pursue it. She truly believed she could do anything, and even when life was throwing obstacles in her way, tripping her up, she found ways to prove it.

When she wasn’t working as a corporate financial officer (a position she ascended to at a time when the glass ceiling was oppressively low for women), or taking care of her children, or managing the house, she was in the kitchen experimenting, concocting, feeding her spirit. The kitchen became her laboratory…

…which is how I wound up roasting peppers, because she decided, as she always did, that the peppers one roasted on their own were better than those that were made by someone else. I tried to buy a jar once when she was visiting, and she laughed at me, then headed to the produce aisle to find the perfect peppers before taking me home and showing me how to roast them.

Her insistence on my learning this skill amused me, but I realize now the value of it, the importance, in everything I do. How lucky we all were—my father, brother, and I, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, then grandchildren—to be the recipients of her teaching, her gifts, her need to create, solve problems. How blessed we all were to be in the presence of such a woman….

Comments 8

 
Monika Schott PhD on Wednesday, 23 March 2016 09:41

A lovely tribute to your mum, Barbara. ;)

A lovely tribute to your mum, Barbara. ;)
Barbara Froman on Wednesday, 23 March 2016 16:49

Thank you, Moni! :-)

Thank you, Moni! :-)
Katherine Gregor on Thursday, 24 March 2016 13:20

So lovely to read about your mother, Barbara. It's like finding out more about what made you the person you are. She sounds like an extraordinary lady. Thank you for sharing her description with us.

So lovely to read about your mother, Barbara. It's like finding out more about what made you the person you are. She sounds like an extraordinary lady. Thank you for sharing her description with us.
Barbara Froman on Thursday, 24 March 2016 16:12

Thank you, Katia. She was a force. :-)

Thank you, Katia. She was a force. :-)
Rosy Cole on Saturday, 26 March 2016 17:23

Wonderful memories, Barb. Illustrates so well how passing wisdom may chime on a deeper level than we know at the time and gathers a significance we can treasure.

Thanks for sharing. These days, I find myself preferring memoir to fiction. And, without fabrication, it can be classed as 'creative non-fiction' when it is well done. However, I am intrigued by your new project and am left wondering if you mean to tell the story from different viewpoints. But I won't encourage you to give the game away! :-)

Wonderful memories, Barb. Illustrates so well how passing wisdom may chime on a deeper level than we know at the time and gathers a significance we can treasure. Thanks for sharing. These days, I find myself preferring memoir to fiction. And, without fabrication, it can be classed as 'creative non-fiction' when it is well done. However, I am intrigued by your new project and am left wondering if you mean to tell the story from different viewpoints. But I won't encourage you to give the game away! :-)
Barbara Froman on Sunday, 27 March 2016 05:41

Thanks, Rosy. It is so true about "passing wisdom" and its significance. I think reaching a certain age helps to crystallize that wisdom even more. There's so much I had no way of understanding 20 years ago; yet, now? I get it. And what I prize from many of those memories are the million ways my mother taught me — and all who knew her — to be resourceful, to see opportunities and solutions in unusual places. A rare gift, indeed.

I know what you mean about preferring memoir, too, and suspect that has to do with reaching a certain age, as well. :-) As for my latest project, I can say that it will be told from a number of points of view which come from three different time periods in a single house. More than that...well, I can't really say because the characters are still evolving. But as they take shape, I'll happily share their thoughts. I'm delighted you're intrigued! I need nudges like that occasionally! Many many thanks!

Thanks, Rosy. It is so true about "passing wisdom" and its significance. I think reaching a certain age helps to crystallize that wisdom even more. There's so much I had no way of understanding 20 years ago; yet, now? I get it. And what I prize from many of those memories are the million ways my mother taught me — and all who knew her — to be resourceful, to see opportunities and solutions in unusual places. A rare gift, indeed. I know what you mean about preferring memoir, too, and suspect that has to do with reaching a certain age, as well. :-) As for my latest project, I can say that it will be told from a number of points of view which come from three different time periods in a single house. More than that...well, I can't really say because the characters are still evolving. But as they take shape, I'll happily share their thoughts. I'm delighted you're intrigued! I need nudges like that occasionally! Many many thanks!
Anonymous on Friday, 01 April 2016 05:50

Mothers. I guess it's close enough to Mothers' Day to tell this. When I think of Mothers' Day I always think of this Japanese legend. The story
is that in Japan some centuries ago it was customary when a parent was getting too old to care for him/herself the eldest son was to walk
the parent into the mountains and leave him/her there to die. The time came for one such son to walk his mother out there and he proceeded
to do this. As they walked the mother kept picking petals from the flowering bushes along the way and strewing them along the path. This
was making the son more and more nervous and finally he turned to his mother and snapped, "why do you keep doing that? You're driving
me crazy! The mother replied, "I don't want you to get lost on your way home, my son." The man picked his mother up and carried her back
into the village. When the villagers saw this the custom was never again repeated.

Mothers. I guess it's close enough to Mothers' Day to tell this. When I think of Mothers' Day I always think of this Japanese legend. The story is that in Japan some centuries ago it was customary when a parent was getting too old to care for him/herself the eldest son was to walk the parent into the mountains and leave him/her there to die. The time came for one such son to walk his mother out there and he proceeded to do this. As they walked the mother kept picking petals from the flowering bushes along the way and strewing them along the path. This was making the son more and more nervous and finally he turned to his mother and snapped, "why do you keep doing that? You're driving me crazy! The mother replied, "I don't want you to get lost on your way home, my son." The man picked his mother up and carried her back into the village. When the villagers saw this the custom was never again repeated.
Barbara Froman on Friday, 01 April 2016 14:27

What a marvelous story! Thank you for sharing it...and for commenting!

What a marvelous story! Thank you for sharing it...and for commenting!
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Rosy Cole Florence
17 June 2020
Thank you for your delightful comment. It is good to reflect on a way of life that has been lost.
Stephen Evans Florence
16 June 2020
Enjoyed this so much. Charming, evocative, and lyrical.
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Thanks Rosy. The story had to be told and I've been the fortunate person to be able to tell it. The ...
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Helpful context
Rosy Cole Farm Reflections: Lands faraway
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Monika has taken us on a wonderfully illuminating journey, full of interest and humanity. We are so ...