Remembering Chicken!

Last week, while working in my studio, a thought of my Mother’s fried chicken and baked chicken came to mind. It reminded me of Sunday.

As a young child I never liked getting up so early on Sunday to go to mass. I barely kept my eyes open during the mass which started at 7:00 a.m. A few years later, fortunately for me, a 10:00 a.m. mass was added. The new time for mass meant I could snooze until 8:00 a.m., get dress and be ready to leave by 9:30 p.m.

While I snuggled in my bed, my Mother was up early and in the kitchen preparing dinner that we would have following mass. In the farm country of Iowa the dinner hour was at noon so my Mother needed to get everything organized and made before we left for church. After she woke up my sister and me to get dressed and I went downstairs to join her in the kitchen. I often remember Momma finishing up the dinner and setting the table. She scurried around in her smock with jewelry, make up and high heels. Finished with the dinner prep, two details still needed her attention: combing her luxurious hair and putting on her outfit.

As soon as we arrived home, Momma wrapped an apron around her waist and returned to scurry around to finish off the dinner. She always made two entrees. My father did not like chicken so there was a pot roast for him. If she made a roast chicken it was in the oven and ready to eat. When she took it from the oven the aroma was heavenly and the crispy skin always beckoned me to sneak a little piece.

When she made fried chicken, the coating for the chicken pieces was ready, as well as, having her large fry pan on the stove. I stood right by her watching every move. When one side was golden brown she flipped it to the other side and then continued cooking it until done. I loved its crisp light coating and looked anxiously forward to eating it.

Much later in life and I asked her specifically why my chicken wasn’t like hers and was there something I didn’t know. She asked if I put cornmeal with the flour when coating the chicken. I answered, “You never told me that!” and to my self I said, “How did you miss that after nearly 10 years watching her fry chicken?!”

It is strange. I want her fried or baked chicken. I know I won’t make it for myself since mine will not compare to hers even if I add the cornmeal. I will just continue to enjoy the memory.


To Remember and Decide

Thanksgiving is upon us.  Last year I couldn’t think of Thanksgiving because my Mother just passed away.  A year later the holiday brings so many memories of her, particularly the Thanksgiving Dinner that she loved to prepare.  Like a few times in the past, this year I will make another Thanksgiving Dinner and as usual when I make a Thanksgiving dinner it will be far less irresistible than Momma’s ever were.  I am a trained Chef and a darned good cook, but to make a turkey and all the trimmings is something Momma was stellar at and I barely competent to compare.

As a small child on the farm I always enjoyed watching Momma stuff the turkey, but more importantly I knew her dressing mixture was going to be heavenly just as soon as that turkey was done.  Momma’s turkey, as well as the dressing brought incredible wafts of butter, sage and browning turkey as the hours passed waiting for it to be done.  Momma never rushed her turkeys.  In fact she got up early just to get it in and be able to watch over it and patiently baste it when necessary, making it moist and tender.  Oh as I write I can smell and I remember the taste.  I remember the leftovers and the unparalleled turkey sandwiches I could concoct from the slices of light and dark meat.

Momma was at her best on the holidays.  She loved cooking but more importantly she enjoyed making dinner for her family.  As in all families we had our traditional trimmings, each of course better than the next, each a little more fattening than the last, but it was worth every calorie.  As I grew up I learned to space myself just a little so that I didn’t get that full achy, sleepy feeling from the triptafan.   Yet, regardless of trying, the time arrived that made me realize that  if I didn’t stop eating I would surely bust.  Unfortunately, when I woke during the night I always sneaked out to the kitchen for another bite of that heavenly turkey.

The last Thanksgiving my Mother orchestrated was just two years before she died.  Momma had an idea and asked if I minded that she planned the table and the menu.  The next days following her request were days filled with surprises, shopping, memories and work for her.  At the time she was still able to go shopping, although bound to her wheel chair.  She had her list ready for shopping.  First to Joann’s Crafts and Hobby Lobby to see what was new in fabrics and decor.  Momma made her selection for the tablecloth and skirt, then on to deciding just which faceplate would make the table look the way she wanted.  While at the two shops she also chose leaves, a wonderful metal turkey and other items for the centerpiece.  During that little escapade Momma asked how she could make a big cookie for everyone, something once again that was goood, but also pretty.  At first I was a little confused and asked if she wanted this for the dessert.  No, that wasn’t the idea she had.  Rather than just give them a cookie Momma wanted it to be wrapped and placed at the table space in a clear bag.

After more shopping for food Momma arrived home ready to work.  That was Momma, but I cautioned her that we had plenty of time and tomorrow, after she rested we could begin.  The next day after, barely past the time I got Momma up and in her wheelchair, I was reminded she needed to start working on her special cookies.  Momma, with her right side paralyzed, in her wheelchair was determined to make the cookie dough.  I placed the mixer on a low stand by her, brought all the ingredients and in a fair amount of time she was ready for me to roll and cut the dough for her.


Nearly a year ago I began this post.  As I reached the end of the paragraph above the line I stopped.  I couldn’t continue writing.  The memories became to intense remember that wonderful day.  I have kept the tablecloth and all the decorations, yet to this day I am unable to look at them with out missing her.

Last years Thanksgiving was fine.  I made a turkey and all the trimmings and as I sat at the head of the table I asked myself why did I do all of this because my guests could never know or understand the Thanksgivings from my past.  They were special to me and I knew that I did not like the idea of forging a new Thanksgiving of my own, particularly when most of the people I could have for guests only see it as another year.

I vowed that night that I would never try a Thanksgiving Dinner again.  This year I will be at my sister’s in Illinois.  If anyone can come close to the family dinner I enjoy so much is my sister.  I know that Thanksgiving Day will be and taste like it always did.

And then I shall return from Florida and prepare a Christmas/Hannukah Dinner, especially for my dear sister-in-law, who has become a new person  in my life who believes in me as much as my Mother.  Shirley, even though Jewish, understands that for me Christmas is a gay wonderful time.  It was significant in my family, yet held a different position of importance.  Thanksgiving Momma always prepared and planned.  Christmas was a time when we all brought a bit of us to the day and dinner to show our love for each other.  So, when Shirley once said to me I would love, just once to see a big white Christmas tree with sparkling packages under it and a house all decorated for Christmas, there wasn’t much hesitation to say to her, “This year Shirley will be your own White Christmas.”




Tis No Longer the Season!

Our last Christmas together–2008

Dear Momma,
Christmas seems to be never more.  This year possibly was the worst I have ever experienced.  Even my one Christmas in Vietnam was so much better.  This Christmas, I realized, just how wonderful all the Christmas’ you had prepared made that day even more special.  Each year, without question there were cookies, candy, fruitcake and more.  Each of the last years held sweet memories of you and I mixing the batter for your fruitcake.  Then, the last couple of years I smile as Sherry stood in the kitchen groaning as she mixed the batter, rather than laughing and chuckling as you and I did.

Sherry made cookies this year.   She said you must have been there to have guided her to even begin rolling out a cookie.  She questioned why she was making Christmas goodies she never did in the past, nor didn’t need since now, there isn’t anyone to make them for.  Ah, Momma, I think for once Sherry missed the Christmas past with you the last years and then before the Christmas in the little yellow house with Daddy, or on the farm with all of us including Aunty and Mike.  Oh Momma, those were the days.  Christmas Eve, after the packages were open we got to eat your cookies, candies and fruitcakes and sip on Iya Coffee.  MMMMnnn how sweet and delicious each morsel was and then to sip on the coffee nectar made the evening even more memorable.  But it was more it was the lights twinkling and the traditions that you formed for us to carry within us the remainder of our lives.

Yes Momma, the traditions are in me and I desperately missed them this year.  Last year you had just left and I was too upset to even know Christmas was happening, but this year it annoyed me that this one very special day passed without fanfare.  Next year, Momma, I will go to Sherry’s and bring fudge and especially one of your dark fruit cakes, soaked in brandy and honey as you always did.

Ah yes, Momma, you are missed more than you can even know.  But next year Christmas, you will be with me at Sherry’s and we can share the fudge and fruitcake and remember the golden years you formed for us and then one day Momma, you will make the most wonderful Christmas again in the place called Al Di La.

My love to you always, Momma

Today, Tomorrow and Always

Momma Oval2

Within a few short days, the fifteenth of November will arrive, the day that Momma left.  I miss her  today even more than a year ago.  The days since she left have never been the same because there is always an emptiness in me, something that was never felt before.  Momma was my anchor, a guide that stabilized me since I was born.  Now,  I flounder occasionally  and when I do I look up to the place way above, to “Al di La”, where Momma looks down.  It is a place way up over the clouds, where Momma  goes to when she knows her spirit needs to tend my life.  Soon I feel her little hand touching my shoulder and it brings me the comfort she alone can bring.

Her favorite songs are still able to evoke raw grief, sweet memories and heartfelt love for her.  Tears will brim in my eyes and trickle down my cheeks whenever I play “You are my Sunshine” and  when Sarah Brightman sings, “It is time to Say Good-Bye”.  I know everyone wants me to say “good bye” but I never will.

Momma will always live  poignantly alive in my heart.  To think that a soothing balm may help me is ridiculous in reality.  Momma is as special to me as she was during each day I shared with her in my life.   She guided, loved without question and was always there.  On particular times I know she still is there and that nothing has changed.  When I drive, Momma is there in the front seat as always and I hold her little hand.  Recently, on the drive to Florida, there were two times that if she hadn’t been there I would have fallen asleep, yet her spirit was so strong it guided me through that desperate period.  And at night, when sleep doesn’t come, or being upset  becomes overwhelming,  I realize a warm and gentle calmness begins to surround me and I fall a sleep.

My little one remains with me regardless of what skeptics may say.  Grief doesn’t stop, not when the love during a life was so strong, regardless of what the relationship is.  Grief comes and goes at its will and one never knows when something will trigger it to return stronger than ever.  In grief, can come the most wonderful moments in your life.  Momma continues to fulfill my request to her that she always remain

“My Sunshine, for all of my days!”

Today, Tomorrow and Always you will remain in my heart,
held tenderly with love wrapped around you.

Today, Tomorrow and Always will be filled with my loss,
yet each of those days I know you are there.

Today, Tomorrow and Always I look to Al di la
and as my eyes meander through the clouds I feel you there.

Today, Tomorrow and Always I remember the night you left
and tears fill my eyes and my loneliness is more.

Today, Tomorrow and Always I know you are here
because deep in my heart you stay and your little hand touches my shoulder.

Then finally, Today, Tomorrow and Always will change.
On that day of mine, you will be there in Al di la waiting.

When Spring arrives in my Garden!

It is now Spring.  Not by the official date and not by the weather, but by amazing sights that I first saw as a child and did not appreciate. .  Until the last few years here in the Midwest and  while my Mother lived with us, I began to understand the joy of a garden.  Previously, I  never gardened in earnest.   I tried in Arizona, but it was a joke.  I had no idea how to gauge when to plant what plant so that it could live.  All efforts could have been classed as “play” and the results were not very good.

During my adolescent and teen years I never picked up a green thumb on the farm, nor did my Father impart any farming information, particularly if it had anything to do with flowers.    Momma often tried to interest me by letting me pick out annuals to plant and decide in what design a flower bed should be made.  Back then I remembered thinking that picking out plants and designing was okay, but it would be even better if I could be inside making cinnamon  rolls.  It was a fine state for a young person growing up on an Iowa farm and so the years passed and my ignorance of plants continued.

When we first moved  here Momma encouraged me to to make flower gardens and plant as many flowers as I could.  We had already discussed flowers in Arizona before arriving and I had ordered two bush roses and purple day lilies from The Morton Arboreutum  through my sister.  Today I look at those plants and think how lucky I was because I didn’t know how to plant a rose.   I planted them while my Mother was in the hospital that first year and they have beome the most dramatic of all my flowers when they bloom.

The first couple of years she sat on the porch, in the front of the house, while I attempted to turn soil and amend it as well as, planting flowers!!  I was thankful she was there because some days I had no idea what I should do.   Little by little, hint by hint, technique by technique Momma told me how to garden.

Slowly, these stunning sights of Spring were noticed by me in the garden.  They  became more poignant as I told my Mother each day what I had done in the garden.  Momma lay in her bed, with head turned so she could hear every word, would stop me and interject he thoughts, her likes, dislikes and stories about her perennials she left in Iowa.   She often said that the main ingredient to a successful garden was love and then lots elbow grease!

Momma loved all flowers, although her favorite flower was the rose, in particular she was partial to The Abraham Lincoln, deep red rose, a white, Empress rose just tinged in the palest of pink and the very charismatic Yellow tea rose.  Each summer she looked forward to the many bouquets I brought from the gardens, but none of that would not have happened if she didn’t give me her love for making it all happen and appreciate how much a garden of colorful flowers can give you back.

It was  during the second summer Momma started having difficulty getting out to the back yard and all the flowers I had in the back yard were off the patio.  If you sat at the kitchen table you wouldn’t even know those incredible bush roses were there.  Momma missed her flowers and that year I dug up a very large portion of the back yard to make a thirty foot long flower garden that wrapped the patio in a changing, fluid shape perfectly spaced so that when you were at the kitchen table the front border of the garden appeared to be just above the patio wall.

Momma and I shopped many days for flowers to fill up this giant bed, although, she and I decided that a miniature apple tree on each end of the bed would be great.  We chose Macintosh, Momma’s favorite for apple pie, baked apples and canning.  Below one of the apple trees became a huge strawberry patch.  It is the same today and the strawberries, even in the  chilly, “April Showers” are getting ready for their first harvest of fruit and are showing many little white flowers.

Spring came this year not many days ago.  Yes, prior to now there was a premature, weatherman Spring and there was the official start of Spring that was followed by freezing temperatures, snow, sleet, rain, more rain, snow and rain.   Finally, April Showers began, much the same as when I lived on the farm many years ago.  There are days of rain and chill, a sky where clouds then break and warm rays of sun fall across the land, then possibly very windy days or nights are filled  with more rain or fine showers and finally a small group of warm, warm days with bright cumulus clouds up above will arrive.  Yes, it was that way this year and even though I should have been out earlier the gardens are fine!

As I begun my task of cleaning up my garden and yard I began humming an Italian song that my Momma and I always listened to every afternoon, as well as, her other favorite Italian Folk songs.  It wasn’t until after my Momma passed away that I realized what the song, Al Di La, was all about.  Al Di La is a place, far, far above the clouds, that to guess where it is you must follow the sky up and up and weave your way thru the clouds.  Never stop the journey, just keep going as you eye can see.  Then in your heart you have come as close to Al Di La as you can in your life time;  Al Di La is a place where a loved one (one  you miss very much)  waits to guide you on to Paradise,  when you arrive from your final journey.   In the years prior to your arrival, Al Di La, represents to you the reality that you yearn for the past to become real again, although, you admit it can only be the stepping stone for you one day.

I realized why I hummed the song because I felt Momma was there guiding me, up there, far, far above the white, voluminous, cumulus clouds.   At that moment I felt peaceful to know she was there and as I babbled to my garden, I shared everything with her as I always did.

As I chattered on,  I first pruned the dead, perennial stalks and uncovered the little roses from their insulation of Canadian Peat Moss.  Next, as I worked from one side of the first bed to the other cleaning off leaves and as I did the Spring came to me.  There, under the debris,  were the center of my perennials with  tiny shoots of new life.  In my way, they greeted me and we had our  first individual chats for the season.

They are Spring, the little hidden,  leaves signaling new life   When I was finished all of the plants had little faces, smiling upward.  The next day, after a night rain, I went back to the big bed and found that even more Spring had arrived for me.  The rain had allowed the little leaves and stalks to triple their size overnight.  They are amazing,  they have returned to me one more year to please and bring color and texture to my garden.

Momma knew all this and simply gave me some hints, or told a story, as she imparted her knowledge of gardening to me.  Now Momma still guides my hand as she watches far, far above the white, voluminous,  cumulus clouds in a place that is called Al Di La.

A Letter in my Mind to you–

Dear Momma,
Its been a little over three months since you left. Each and every day I think of you and talk to you. Each night as I go to bed we still have our time together, except now I am just beginning to realize I will never be able to see you again. Its then, in the darkness of the room that the reality strikes. I know you are in my heart, my mind and every fiber of my body, but for years you have always been no further away than at the end of the phone and more recently in the same room as I.

They, almost anyone, tells me time makes all the difference. Others wonder why I still mourn. Thankfully others, especially here–those I have on my blogroll,  give support and patience. If they only knew you, I think your reaction to death and the way you handled the times in your life when you lost someone close, would present a much different scenario than I am living. But, there are significant differences in the way that we see ourselves and life. You never had a mother or other person like you. You provided me with stability and strength, but more importantly consistency in love. You only had yourself to depend upon early in life and that helped you Momma, whereas I have had you as my anchor and now I float, still trying to find just the right place to light.

When Sherry and I were at your grave arranging the flowers I waited as long as I could to talk to you. Finally, as you saw, I just laid on the new sod and started talking, just as I always did. Momma, the sod was like grass letting me see you clearly, yet also as I looked up and to the horizon I felt you there and knew you were watching from far away. Its strange, but Sherry can’t face you are not here and refuses to enter into grief. The day you talked with her to watch out for me comes to me all the days since you left. She never visits, nor calls. Just like when you were here Momma, nothing changes much.

Momma, I shall miss you always. I shall never stop talking to you. I shall be with you again  one day and then this chapter of my life will be laid to rest.   It is my belief, only mine since you know we have a couple atheist around, that I will see you in Paradise. If I didn’t have that belief I don’t think I could make it through the days.

I bid Ciao for now, send you my love and now I shall end this letter like every letter you ever wrote to me.


for ever



and ever……………….

With Yesterday the Promise Remembered
Yesterday we were together again little one,
the sun was bright, the air not so chilly.
I thought I might be to sad to be with you dear one,
yet when I was there I felt you with me and all was okay.

Finally, I sat upon the sod over your casket,
at first it was cold and damp and then warmed by my memories.
As I laid by you I felt I was lying on a clear glass mat of glass
and there you were within my sight and within my reach.

Tears fell from my eyes and down my cheek,
not  lonely tears, just tears knowing you were just below.
Below and then also above me to the place beyond our Rainbow Bridge,
I could see your sweet, small face and pat your cheek once more.

Time passes now and stretches out before me
painting a picture of bygone and future times to be.
Hues of now and tints of then–tertiary memories
and  analogous, glowing colors within my heart as I stretch my hand to you.

Down through the glass, up beyond and on to the heavens,
my hand stretches out to touch the softness of your cheek.
My eyes peer down to you while my hand stretches upward
and as I do,  I see you smile through the glass and from far above my hand feels yours.

A day, a time, a trip.  Is that what others may call our time?
Hardly, I think, little one.  For the day to me and hopefully for you
was a day well spent in the meaning of faith, memories and bonds.
It was again a day together and the time was for me to say “One Day, My Little One.”

For the love of Lightning and Thunder

Rain, Thunder, Lightning, deep gray, angry clouds and sudden high winds are wonders to me, they excite and ask me to be a part of them. Some times, restraint is needed, so I remember not to put myself in danger, but give me the overture, musical and exit music of a Midwestern storm and I am as excited, happy, fulfilled and energetic as I am before, during and after a roller coaster ride.

June brought not only my birthday, but the possibilities of awesome and monumental thunder storms as I grew up on the farm in Iowa. When a storm approached it always seemed it came from nowhere; suddenly, far in the distance dark, gray clouds traveled toward the farm. Little, by little the azure blue skies with the fluffy balls of white, cumulus castellanus clouds were replaced by the fast moving angry arcus clouds. Soon all the stages of the storm begin and I, as a young boy waited anxiously. Unfortunately, when the storms blew in my Father often interrupted my reverie to latch gates and doors to make the livestock, chicken and pigs safe within their contained spaces..

I wasn’t too happy with needing to care for the barnyard creatures and with boyish thoughts felt they needed no protection. My Father’s watchful eye never let me think too long and begrudgingly hurried on to latch the gates on the fences and doors on the barn so the animals were safe from the storm and from their own fright of storms. Once done doing my duty, I quickly returned to my post to watch my impressive storm. Even if my parents called me to safety , I knew I could sneak away for the show!!

When the sky was entirely covered by the angry, gray clouds that caused the day to darken as if it were dusk, a hollow, sound of wind signaled the sound and light show to begin soon, the time that was my most exciting.

From the near distance, deep, bass rumbles of thunder reverberated across the barnyard. As the sound echoed over my head, bright white bolts of lighting cracked in the sky. The next moments were heaven to my senses and as I stood with a broadened smile and sparkling eyes, the first huge raindrops fell on my head. Each drop forcefully hit and splashed on my face. I knew that if I lingered I would be caught in a torrent of rain. Sadly, I turned and ran for the cover of the house, barely making it to the overhung porch on the summer kitchen. It was all to good to just ignore, so instead of going in the house, I went into the summer kitchen where I could lean my cheek against the old screen door, as though I was watching my lover dance before my eyes.

Now, much later in life I am still as intrigued by storms as I was in my youth, yet now I am always annoyed if I get wet as I watch!! As I often stand in doorways of businesses watching a storm play its complete symphony I smile and remember when storms were frightening to me and how that all changed:

All little children are put in bed far too early. I was four and Momma tucked me into the top bunk bed shortly after supper. Laying there I wondered when I would be able to stay up later. Momma told me when I was older I wouldn’t need as much sleep. I thought to myself that I felt like I had a whole bunch of sleep so why did I have to have it then. Finally, as little boys and girls do, I fell a sleep.

As I woke in the little bed, the room in the trailer was so dark and it felt like the our trailer was moving. Suddenly, a crack and boom sounded that scared me and as I came upright I banged my head on the handle that opened the ceiling vent in the room. It hurt so bad and when combined with the wind hitting the trailer the effect caused me to scream out in fear, Within moments, my Mother took me in her arms, singing quietly as she carried me in her arms to living room.

Momma sat on the sofa holding me tight. I remember that as I cried I played with the hem of her full skirt. It was a deep emerald green and eventually I moved so that I could lay my head on her lap and curl up next to her on the sofa. As she stroked and patted my blond hair she continued singing the simple little Italian folk songs that she always sang to us at bedtime. Regardless, I sremained upset because of the storm. Momma told me a story about how storms were made and why I should not be afraid of the sound or the wind. The story spoke of how God made heaven and earth and that the skies were there for us to get to heaven. Sometimes, even God got sick and the lightning and thunder helped him feel better. Once he started feeling fine he gives a gift back for our patience and endurance. The gift a beautiful, delicate rainbow that willl always surprise and please.

It may have not been the most creative story in the world, but it did calm me. The noise and cracks of light had a reason to happen and if it meant a rainbow all seemed better. From that time on I began to look at storms in a different way and became fascinated by them.

One day, while I was at my Mother’s apartment in Arizona, a storm of giant proportions quickly blew in. My mother sat frozen in her big chair. Next, the lights went out and I heard my Mother fidgeting in the chair. I asked her what she was doing. A tiny, suppressed voice finally uttered to get a candle lit and come to her because she hated storms!

Later we talked and she told me she had always been deathly afraid of storms, but she had no intention of letting me be afraid that night in the trailer, nor was she going to let me or the storm know just how frightened she was until the time was right. From that night on, if a storm was headed toward my Mother’s apartment, I quickly got her and brought her to my house so she wasn’t alone. With each succeeding storm, Momma always smiled and said, “Go Ahead, Go outside for a while—just be in here for the lightening strikes!!