The older I get, the more I see
The power of that young woman, my mother.
– Sharon Olds, American poet
David started a Mother’s Day tradition that pre-dated our getting together. This tradition has been going strong for 20 years now. He is a fantastic chef and he loves to cook – lucky me – and every Saturday evening of Mother’s Day weekend, he makes a gourmet dinner for his mom and me. His parents and his brother Michael come up for the weekend, and then Sunday morning, his parents treat our family for breakfast at Fat Apple’s in El Cerrito (7525 Fairmount Avenue, 510.528.3433). We have learned to get there before eight in the morning to avoid having to stand in line, which can be quite some time when there are seven of us waiting for a table.
This year, David grilled everything – swordfish on a bed of tomatoes and arugula, clams with prosciutto and tabasco, potatoes with a Chianti vinaigrette, and fresh asparagus with prosciutto (his parents brought these fresh, thick spears from Stockton) – and paired dinner with a smooth White Southern Rhone Blend. He ended the evening serving a mango smoothie. Overall, the meal was not heavy at all; in fact, it didn’t seem like it was a five-course meal and we didn’t roll away from the dining room.
After his parents and brother left Sunday morning, we headed to Annie’s Annuals (740 Market Avenue, Richmond, 94801, 510.215.1671), a fabulous nursery that throws a big Mother’s Day weekend party, complete with face painting, entertainment by Budderball the Clown, music, a mini petting zoo (new this year), plant talks under a tent, a raffle, and food and drinks. It gets crowded, but we enjoy going to get a few plants for my pots and admire the row upon row of plants and flowers that I wish would fit in our garden. The trek to Annie’s Annuals has become a recent tradition in the past few years. The evening ended with David preparing a Mother’s Day dinner for our family – lamb kabob, keeping this year’s theme of grilling going through the weekend.
Remembering my Mom
This is the second Mother’s Day that I am celebrating without my mother. In the past, while we spent Mother’s Day weekend with David’s parents, I sent my mother a card and plant (flowers would trigger her seasonal allergies, so I stopped having flowers delivered) and then called her that Sunday. Last year was difficult and painful. This year is no less difficult, but in a different way. Gone is the immediacy of her no longer being with us. Instead, I feel a bit lost, like what an orphan might feel.
I posted on Facebook a picture of my mother and me on my graduation day 1985 at UC Davis. It is one of my all-time favorite photos of the two of us because it was spontaneous – I was looking off to the side with my arm around her, and she had this half-smile and looking off into the distance. What was she thinking? Maybe that she was able to get her third daughter through college – a proud moment, indeed. One of my cousins posted a comment that she remembered, as a child, my mother as always looking beautiful and elegant, and that her style and beauty never faded. Growing up, I never thought of my mother as beautiful because I didn’t see her as anything but a mother who was very strict, who worked herself to exhaustion in the vineyards and in the packing house so she could give us the material things that made up the American Dream. Looking back now, yes, she was beautiful. My grandmother had Chinese in her heritage and my grandfather Spanish in his. My mother had that mestizo look.
She also had a quiet style. She wore her hair fashionably short, which suited her. Though plump as a teenager and young adult, she was always thin since her marriage to my father. I loved her dresses from the 1960s – fitted bodices and flared skirts. Even in her later years, I could find at least one outfit in her closet that I could wear and look neither matronly nor out of fashion.
She never wore high heels in my lifetime, but a few years ago when I became obsessed with high heels and platforms and showed my mother a pair of high-heeled pumps that I had purchased at a local shoe store, she got excited. She told me that she wore high heels when she was much younger. I could see her living vicariously, as she turned my newly purchased shoe over in her hands. She liked what I had picked out. Maganda, beautiful. I looked at her, amazed, never imagining my mother rocking a pair of high-heeled shoes. In the vineyards, she wore old clothes sealed at the openings with duct tape to keep the dust out. She came home after 10-plus-hour days sweaty, her work clothes coated in dust. In the packing house, she wore an apron stained with purple dye from the Sunkist brand stampings on the shiny, hard oranges. I was glad she had told me that about her. It was something we had in common, a story I keep in my heart.