Mother’s Day: Remembering Mom . . . and Dad

This morning was going so well.  Soon after letting Annie out for her morning “go”, I decided to try out the new sprinkler on the thirsty front yard.  The spray and puddles soon attracted a variety of birds and even a squirrel that wanted to play in the rhythmic splashes on the sidewalk.

Then into the garage I went to pull a big bag of potting soil out of the hatchback in order to re-pot a monkey’s paw fern that had crashed onto the patio from its precarious perch from a nail not-so-carefully driven into a pergola post.  But the beans that had been soaking overnight for frijoles a la charra were on my mind, so I headed back inside to get them started cooking.   When I returned to the pots, I happily found that the fern could be separated, and I could share part with a friend.  In the front yard, the water continued soaking the dry ground.

With my hands covered with potting soil, I headed out front to turn off the water, only to find that ants had started another hill in the corner of the side flower bed.  Back to the garage I went for the Sevin.

With the ants taken care of, my puttering continued–filling pots, frying pieces of salted pork for the beans, sweeping the front sidewalk of the remaining puddles and twigs from the oak tree.

Enjoying my puttering on this unusually fresh southeast Texas morning.  Moving back and forth task to task until one and then the other was completed.  Even now as I write, it’s back downstairs to check on the nearly ready beans.

Enjoying my house.

Then one of those moments comes over me.  I know it’s Mother’s Day.  This is the second without Mom.  Last year wasn’t like this.

It’s the house.

Driving back from Kansas, a Christmas ago, less than two months after Mom had passed away, I had Annie in the car with me, and all of a sudden, for no obvious reason, I stopped the car, started to bawl, and said to her,  “I’m going to get us a house.”

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My parents spoiled me.  When you’re the last one by a ways, you get spoiled.  I didn’t see it that way so much when it was happening, but they kept it up even after I came back from four years in the military and should have learned to take care of myself.  The house on the farm, and later, the one in town.  Mom. Dad. Home.  Always there for me.   After a weekend or holiday spent with my folks, I almost always cried  after I got into my car and was heading down the road.  (There are some of those N.A.R.T.H.-type psycho-wackos that would say that’s why I’m gay, but if so there’s a helluva lot of spoiled straight people out there too.)

Even after Dad was gone, when I’d spend time with Mom at the house in Abilene, it’d be hard to leave, and later, when she wasn’t able to care for herself, she’d say things to show she still worried and cared about me, like when one of the last times I saw her, she said, “Don’t stop quilting.  You might need that to take care of yourself some day.”  Behind me now set two tables  piled with two sewing machines, fabric, and all  sorts of quilting supplies, not quite ready to start–or finish–a project.  When the things on those tables are organized, most everything in my house will have found its place.

————–

The full realization of why getting this house was so important never really hit me until this morning.

After my mom was gone, I no longer had a home to go back to.  Not that she’d even lived in her own house for the last years of her life.

So many things that I do now remind of my mom and dad.  (I can hardly breathe right now–remembering.)  My dad.  My dad’s blue striped overalls.  When I was a very little kid, I used to hang onto the loop on the side (the one that would hold a hammer) when I went along with him almost every Saturday to the grocery store.  Those beans downstairs.  I learned to cook, and not be afraid to experiment, from watching and helping Mom in the kitchen.  I could still pluck and dress a chicken if I had to.

Not long after I moved in to my house, I “had” to get a wooden bowl for the Christmas nuts, not only the bowl, but add to it the old flat iron that I already had and a hammer to crack the nuts.  A similar set for nut-cracking was what my parents had had for as long as I can remember.  The once kerosene lamp, turned into an electric one by an uncle, which sat forever on the desk in the house on the farm, after being passed around the family for awhile, came to me and now is on my desk in the corner of the living room, not so different from its place back on the farm.

My house has already become more than a nice place to live; because of it, I am able to live in a way that I couldn’t in an apartment.  More than ever, I realize how much of my own self comes from my mom and dad.  Because of them, I pushed myself to buy a house, and I’m sure that they would be happy for me, knowing that I’m “home” again.

(And the beans are done, the cilantro added.  And my first attempt at barbequed ribs on the big-ass grill is happenin’.)

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Big Italian Pasta with Easy Rustic Sauce–Just the Thing for Lunch on the Patio

Perfect Lunch and a Perfect Setting

I’ve got some vacation days from work and today was the first one.  It’s early afternoon, and so far I’ve accomplished a lot, enjoying every minute of it.

I snuck some extra snooze time after taking Annie out at 6:30 and peeking at my little garden.  It was barely light enough to see the plants; that’s why jumping back into bed for awhile seemed like a good idea, but after about an hour, I knew I was too awake to really sleep any more.  I got up, took a shower, and headed back outside.

I started moving pavers from more of my garden plot.  The previous owners had pavers everywhere.  It seems like they didn’t like grass.  I had already moved some out of the space I’m using for my vegetable garden, but there are still more.  I’m going to keep some for a walkway, but by getting rid of some, I will have space for some more plants.

I didn’t want to kill myself, so I left the rest of the pavers for later, but I moved on to pulling up weeds and giving the driveway and sidewalks a good sweep.

Annie got her regular shots this past Saturday, but even though we take walks on hard surfaces, her nails had really grown.  So, next on my list of tasks was giving her a bath and taking her to get her nails clipped.  That’s one part of grooming that I just can’t do.

When we got back home, I returned to the pavers in the garden, but my stomach was growling because I hadn’t eaten anything.  I decided to fix one of my favorite dishes–homemade big Italian pasta.  It’s my own concoction.  It’s fast and severely easy.  And–if I don’t say so myself–satisfies just as well as something that costs high dollar in a fancy restaurant.  I get these big Italian shell macaroni from World Market, right off the 610 Loop on Richmond.  I’m sure you can find them other places, but these are made in Italy from semolina wheat.  They have a nice taste and texture to them when cooked.

Here’s my recipe:

Big Italian Pasta with Super Easy Rustic Sauce

Cook about 1/3 of the bag of big macaroni in a pot of salted boiling water until done but still firm.  Drain in a colander.

Heat a splash of olive oil in a non-stick frying pan.

Add one can of seasoned stewed tomatoes.  I like the Kroger brand Italian style or Mexican style.  Cook the tomatoes on medium high heat.  It’s almost as if the tomatoes are being fried in the olive oil.  While the tomatoes are simmering, add a good dollop of ketchup, about 1/3 of a cup.  This adds flavor and helps thicken the sauce.  Turn the heat down, and let simmer for 5-8 minutes more.  The consistency should be that of a nice, chunky sauce.

Add the drained macaroni into the frying pan and gently toss.

Plate up the pasta and sprinkle with as much Parmesan cheese as you like.

This recipe would serve two persons, but add a salad and Italian bread and it’d probably be enough for three.  This would also work well as a side dish.

Today I took my pasta outside and had my first lunch ever on the patio.  When I was looking for a house, I knew that I wanted one with some kind of outdoor living space.  This house definitely filled the bill.  The tables and chairs I got this past weekend seem to just finish out the space.  With the pergola, the shade of the big oak tree, all my plants and flowers, and the sound of the fountain, I couldn’t have enjoyed my simple pasta lunch any more if I had been on the terrace of an Italian villa.