As I write these words, it is Mother’s Day. Those that know me are fully aware of why this day has the effect it does on me. There comes a point, however, when you need to be reminded that, while you have your own feelings, they aren’t what matters …
There are things which pass from mothers to their daughters and sons. It might be a tradition which generations before held to be important, some sort of moment to be remembered, a celebration to be performed in a certain way. For others it’s an heirloom or other physical thing that is given, explained, and cherished. The things and events, however, aren’t what truly matters sometimes.
I remember the time she taught me how to make grilled cheese.
That seems like such a small thing to recall so clearly. How complicated can it be to make such a basic thing as a grilled cheese sandwich? It’s just two pieces of bread, the kind really doesn’t matter, toasted, with a bit of cheese in-between. It’s nothing special or needing any sort of real knowledge about cooking to create. Anyone can make it, it’s not that difficult to do.
Still, I remember watching her put things on the countertop, remarking about the butter, the bread–she did insist that sourdough was the best, as I recall. The cheese should be freshly grated; she preferred both cheddar and mozzarella. If one was lucky, as on this occasion, there’d be some bacon bits to add to the mixture as well. A cast iron skillet was a good choice, and low heat, so as not to burn the bread before the cheese had melted well.
None of this was a surprise; she loved cooking. The recipe books that adorned the simple shelving unit in her kitchen contained many delectables that she liked. Some she changed to her taste: the little bits of paper with her own recipes stuck in-between the pages held secrets that only she really knew.
The sound of the bread touching the melting butter comes easily to my thoughts. I can hear the sizzle, the light scent of the bread toasting filling the kitchen as she explained step by step how things should be done. She was very particular on when the cheese was to be added, when the two slices should be brought together, and how long the combined items should be allowed to merge with the heat before being transferred to a plate to be brought to the table.
I can see the two of us sitting at the kitchen table soon after, she having brought our sandwiches herself; she would never allow me to help in that. After all, this was her kitchen. I can remember the first taste of her creation. How the bread was just so, the cheese melting out the edges. She explained that food like this was called comfort food by some. At the time I didn’t quite put the pieces together about what she meant by that.
I remember the times after, the things taught by her as she made this meal or that. The talks we had as things cooked in the oven for some sort of family get-together years later. I can see her joy in her craft, the appreciation that our family returned. It took a while, but she eventually allowed us to clean things up for her afterwards–though that was a very long time coming.
I find myself here, in our home, on the single day of the year in which I don’t find much comfort from the memories so often. It’s still early; the balance of the day my Eternal and I have sorted. It will be filled with the memories of our mothers, the lessons taught echoing within the two of us. The visits to where they are at rest lie ahead, time not spent, but rather reminisced by.
We’re standing by the stove, watching carefully as things develop there. The scent surrounds us, words sort of lost in this moment as they are. We’re lost in our memories of the past, the thoughts of the future and what the present has come to be.
We gathered the items together, prepared each needed thing as it was to be. There wasn’t a need to read the recipe, being as simple as it was. We knew when it was time to turn things over, the point where all was ready, the moment to remove the heat. The table was set, the small group of flowers in the middle of the table being the ones they both loved.
As we enjoy our grilled cheese together, I know what she truly meant by comfort food.