Saturday mornings were made for farmers markets. I was surrounded by crisp fall air, sounds of the waves crashing on the rocks from the lake and the bustle of people their dogs and cloth bags. I really wasn’t sure what to get from the farmers today. There was no recipe in mind or even a list. The morning was still, yet pensive while I was finding my way into the day. There I stood in front of a bushel of cucumbers and a pail of dill weed. I stood there staring down at them while my mind flooded with memories of my mother-in-law, Dolores.
She has been on my mind lately. I am not sure why, other then she was quite a memorable women. Something about the unrest in Milwaukee the last month made me think about stories she would share with my wife Diane and I.
She was an interesting lady. She was strong and proud of her bohemian heritage, in love with the idea of being an independent women. She made garden, canned her own food, including pickles, sauerkraut, cherries, peaches and lots of apples. As you can see there was always lots of fruits for pies, apples squares and desserts. She loved to bake. Kraut was a necessity for her famous dumplings that everyone couldn’t wait to eat next to her special recipe of pork chops and homemade gravy. The meal always started with her fresh canned pickles, veggies and dip, ending with homemade pie, Zurheide ice cream and hours of dice or card games. We left fed, plump with laughter, a box of food from her garden and clothes or blankets that she made in her sewing room.
There were many other lessons she slipped in among the fun, food and games. She wasn’t one to be silent about her beliefs.
These are the ones that stick out in my memory:
Right was right and wrong was wrong, there wasn’t much debate about that fact. She alway stood up for what she believed, yet would bend if the issue involved someone she loved.
Respect was a fact not a choice. She understood it was important to respect others. She loved a debate, sharing her point of view but it always included regard for the other persons feelings.
Love was an unconditional and part of life. She gave of herself to everyone around her even in times when she had nothing to give.
Saving was a necessity. She understood the value that many of us are figuring out for the first time. Reuse, repurpose and saving for a rainy day was about survival. She had amazing talent at turning nothing into something with a purpose.
Having fun was a must. It made no matter what was happening, Mom had to find something that would make a situation fun. She loved to play games. Truthfully, she enjoyed the competition, but mostly the laughter that went along with winning or losing. Her strategy of never giving up, but learning when to fold them, helped in a card game but was also how she lived her life.
Everyday was about learning something new.
Mom was a school teacher in the 1950’s. This is one of the strongest memories I have of her in these times of unrest in the United States in my City and in our World. She was the only women in her family to go to college, get her teaching degree and educate children in a one-room schoolhouse, kindergarten through twelfth grade.
She told story of making lessons plans at night at her kitchen table in the house she, Dad and his father built. She spoke with passion about making sure she created lessons and activities for each child’s age or ability, to challenge and stretch them to be better everyday. She would get to the school house in the dark, shovel the sidewalk, carry in buckets of coal to warm the room and be ready to greet each child with a smile and often a hug. She spoke passionately about her responsibility to these children. Selfless, she dedicated her talent to loving them and making sure they learned.
She would chuckle when she told this story. She’d say with the upmost respect, there was no principal, no superintendent, no doctoral administrator, no teachers union, no school board, no teachers aides or no parent teacher associations.
She said, it was just me and the children, she smiled and then whispered the words, we simply learned together.
We loved each other, learned as much as we could, living by the golden rule. We respected one another and did what was expected. She reminded me that they didn’t question authority, they honored those who went before them, the tradition of learning, unity and what it was like to be a strong community.
Mom’s lessons seemed old fashioned to me at the time she shared them. Today, I am thinking these values are the very things we are missing in our country.
Maybe simple was better, I thought.
So I bought dill, cucumbers and a few canning jars that morning.
Now will you try a pickle Diane?