by Ginger Graham
It’s almost Mother’s Day. And this year, as in many past, it is also my mom’s birthday. She’s been gone for eighteen years… but she is with me every day. I have always believed I drew the lucky straw when it came to my parents. They were pretty amazing people. On Mother’s Day, I am drawn to my mother’s memory even more strongly.
Her influence, her voice, her admonitions to be a good person — they are constant companions in my life. She was born in 1928 in rural, very poor, southwest Oklahoma. Her mom and dad had to move to California to try to survive; a bit of a Grapes of Wrath story.
She ended up in high school in LA and met a West Texas boy; a sailor in the Naval Air Corp who became my dad. Eventually they ended up in Arkansas and raised their kids, taking in family members and foster children and helping everyone who needed it.
She loved to cook, to bake, to feed people. She served others by doing so and called those around her to do the same. I grew up learning to bake. And when she started her own business, The Sugar and Spice Cake Decorating and Catering Company, I worked alongside her and learned to make beautiful chocolates, fancy wedding cakes and other confections. It was a lesson in hard work.
She loved to be part of creating special celebrations for others. She was selfless. It’s kind of what moms do.
She and Dad came to visit my husband Jack and I at our home in Boulder, Colorado, in August of 2003. We went to Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse. We shopped for new light fixtures for our dining room. She insisted she help me clean all the closets in the house. It seemed that everything was normal. She was hurt in a run-in with a cow on our family farm in September, resulting in hospitalization two weeks later and she died of liver cancer eighteen days after that. There was no time to understand it, to plan around it and or even tell people it was happening.
A year or so after my mom passed, I was asked to contribute to a book that included letters written to moms, along with their favorite recipes. My letter to mom ended up in the book and I recently ran across that little book while going through a few boxes. It reminded me again of the amazing influence she had on my life and how thankful I am for my mom. In honor of Mother’s Day, I offer you that letter I wrote to my mom. And her crescent roll recipe that was her “go to” for a quick homemade bread she would serve when company was coming.
Sending love and appreciation to all the moms out there,
Boy, do I miss you!!
Your name comes up all the time in conversations with family, friends, business associates and acquaintances. When family events are planned, we discuss how much you would have enjoyed them. If someone is in need, we mention what you would have done to reach out with food, clothing and a shoulder to lean on – and because you would have done something, we try to also. It seems we often remark about how hard you worked, how much you helped others and how much joy you expressed in the “doing.”
I quote you a lot, too. I’m practicing answering questions affirmatively, like you always did for me. When I asked, “Mom, could you do this for me?” You answered, “Absolutely!” Now I understand the power of that word! It offered complete support and affirmation; never a hint that I had imposed or you had other more important things to do. Simple and energetic support—thank you for that gift.
When the challenge seems too difficult or the task too great, I hear you asking,“What’s the worst that could happen?” And it’s usually not that bad, so I just go for it.
In those times when the life seems overwhelming and weighing me down, I hear you whisper, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” And I make choices and move on, focused anew on how blessed I am.
Your life was so different than mine, but you brought your values to your role as parent. Through the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression you learned to be frugal and resourceful. You taught me to save my money and make my own clothes. While you “kept the books” at the local Ford Motor Company, you taught me to foot columns and rows so that I was “good at numbers.” While you ran a catering business you taught me how to entertain with grace and beauty. And you helped me understand that it doesn’t matter how much money a person makes, their manners tell you who they really are. That was one of your greatest gifts to me.
As you worked side-by-side with Dad on the farm, you two showed me how to treasure life, be respectful of death and persevere. I know the hard work involved in growing your own food and the importance of cultivating a flower garden along side the crops that would feed us: those flowers fed our soul. As you cared for elderly neighbors and stepped in at times of local tragedy, you taught us about community and responsibility. As kids, through manual labor we learned the power of self-esteem earned through accomplishment and how to survive failures: you picked yourself up and tried again.
I have dozens of your cake pans, piles of cookbooks and boxes of recipes. Mostly, I have your recipe for life: work hard, serve others and be joyful.
I love you Mom,
Earlene’s Crescent Rolls
- 1 yeast cake or 1 package of dry yeast, softened in 3 tablespoons of warm water
- 3 eggs, beaten
- 1 cup warm water
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 stick melted butter
- 5 cups flour
Mix all ingredients, cover, and let stand overnight. Next day, divide dough into quarters and roll out to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut into triangles and brush with butter.
Roll up and let stand 3-5 hours on cookie sheets. Bake at 375 degrees for 8-12 minutes.
This recipe makes 24 servings.
Get Earlene’s Strawberry Pie Recipe here.