Harvesting Memories of Mom

Happy Mother’s Day to all you hard-working Moms out there!

Ya know, whenever I had a bad day in high school, my own mother had a unique knack of offering just enough coffee and sympathy to make even earth-shattering teenage disappointments take on a more happy spin. Memories of that shot of caffeine, a listening ear and some optimism will always be dear to me.

My mother was also an amazing cook and hostess. She made everything from complex dishes like chicken kiev, to a rich and saucy Crock Pot chili which I once had the opportunity to make for HER-- and which thankfully received a gracious thumbs-up from my beloved Maternal Figure...

(I will share that recipe with YOU all at the end of this blog! I think Mom would have been simultaneously delighted and terrified at the idea of her chili recipe going global, nourishing distant families.)

But it’s funny, as I look around my HOME, I somehow think poor Mom would have been really distressed at all the sage, lavender, rose and lace.

Mom was a woman with simple tastes, and a deep devotion to 70s Early Americana. Which did not fade over time. She embraced those early 70s harvest colors-- orange, russet, goldenrod and avocado-- as part of a decorating Constitution, something tried, true, and only to be altered with rare reason.

For example, I remember when the original couch was worn beyond repair in the mid-eighties. My dear mother was forced to step from the inviting warmth of her Colonial Williamsburg cocoon and enter an MTV world of design choices-- one filled with space-age blacks, reds, grays and chromes.

I recall venturing through store after store with her on this mission to reclaim the golds, pumpkins, coffees and olives for the family--and trying throughout to explain the futility of thinking you can turn back the trends.

If she’d been questing for the Holy Grail instead of the Spirit of 1776, she might have had an easier go of it.

But eventually, she settled on a pale substitution for her seating at Sears. A three-seater of forest green, olive and orange, with a sculpted lily-pad pattern. There were no Liberty Bells in its print. Or hand-crafted barrels or American flags. No olive and orange eagles with their wings outstretched in harvest-colored pride. But we had scoured most of the state.

Mom knew when it was time to stop tilting at 18th century flaxwinders.

It would have to do, she determined. But the colonies had really taken a hit.

So the household moved on. Albeit begrudgingly and in ways so small, visitors to the house might not have noticed. The orange and mustard Colonial lampshade with all the bells and eagles was replaced with a more plain burlap shade. The pottery jug side lamps with the eagles on the base were exchanged for some pottery baskets the size of small island nations-- which were eventually covered in orange-and-green flowers that took hours to fill-in by hand.

You have to admire the woman’s dedication to her color palette.

Of course, it wasn’t something I spoke about much, given my mother’s passion for the harvest, but I kind of.... well... HATED orange.

Not only was it rooted in every corner of my home, but in our school colors as well. Put a girl with red hair in an orange gym uniform and just see how the ol’ opinion forms about the color.

And the colonial look-- well, considering every single year of my social studies education began with the building of the 13 colonies, I was about up to my ringing ears in Founding Fathers and Liberty Bells. I could no longer find the proper reverence for Mr. Revere. It was bound to happen.

So in my house today, nary an eagle or George Washington portrait is to be found. When my dad recently sold the family home, he gave me the black milk jug with the eagle and stars decals on it, which had sat in the entryway by the door for years. I promptly painted it over cream and now store my vintage parasols in it.

And Mom’s 70s singer sewing machine cabinet with the early American handles? It’s gotten a lick of shabby chic paint, and some glass knobs. It works as a side table in my guest room, with the sewing machine just waiting for its next big project.

Of course, I never meant the updates as a sign of disrespect. Just a way of accepting, and moving on.

But Mom, she still wouldn’t have liked it.

So I conclude with this. A week or so ago, I was strolling through the Goodwill. And there, in the housewares aisle, something familiar caught my eye...

Four plastic placemats just like the ones my mother used every day in the kitchen. Placemats with enormous yellow and orange flowers and bright olive-green leaves. I hadn’t thought of them in ages… and in retrospect, they seem a bit pop-art hip for Mom.

Perhaps it was the lure of the beloved harvest colors that had prompted her purchase.

Well, I stood in the aisle for a moment, just staring at those long-forgotten placemats. If Mom had been shopping with me, she would have pounced on them-- they were in so much better condition than the ones she’d had. The harvest would have continued on.

The placemats made me smile.

In fact, I kept thinking about those placemats over the course of the week. Thinking I should have at least taken a picture of them, for posterity. But when I went back to the Goodwill, camera in hand, they were gone.

I bet right now, they’re on someone else’s kitschy kitchen table. And maybe that table’s even avocado green. Or orange. And maybe they’re even having Mother’s Day dinner.

Hope you all have a wonderful week.

Mom’s Chili

3 8 ounce cans of kidney beans
1 large can crushed Italian style tomatoes
3 8 ounce cans of Hunts Tomato Sauce
1 pound ground beef
One small sweet onion
Chili powder
Italian Seasoning
Onion powder
Garlic powder
Parmesean shaker cheese

Dice small onion. Fry ground beef with chopped onion. Drain on paper towels to remove excess great. Add to Crockpot. Drain beans and add them to the beef. Add crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce. Add remaining ingredients aside from Parmesean cheese to taste. Cook over Low for 6-8 hours. About 15 minutes before serving, sprinkle in Parmesean cheese. Enjoy!


Dr. Nicole said...

Wow now that is a recipe I can actually make! Woo hooooooooooooo!!!

ThriftShopRomantic said...

Hi, Nicole!- It's really easy and SMELLS phenomenal when cooking. I hope you'll give it a go.