It’s Mother’s Day today, and I miss my mom. Just thought you should know…
When I was two years old my mom and I would sit side by side in ancient beach chairs on top of a mountain in the Catskills and soak up the sun and she would tell me stories of what it was like to be a little girl in the Vilna Ghetto. I just loved hanging out with my mom.
When I was six years old and had a friend over to play my mom would peek her head into the bedroom, disrupting whatever drama was unfolding in the Barbie house, I wished my mom would go back into the kitchen where she belonged.
When I was 10 years old and my mom came to my school for Parents Day and she was the only mom dressed there in pants (and polyester pants, noch!) I just wanted to keep on asking for the bathroom pass and leave the room for the whole day.
When I was 13 and we were back in the Catskill Mountains and all my cool friends where sneaking off to smoke cigarettes in the woods and my mom insisted I come and sit with her and my grandmother in the shade of our bungalow and work on my knitting. I had such a crush on Leon but so did Debbie and she was out there with him and I was stuck with my mom knitting and my life was over. “But, Ma, everybody is there!” “You’re not everybody!” was her answer, always her answer….
When I was 16 and we were all going to go down to Rockefeller Center to go ice skating, and it’s only $25 dollars for 15 minutes, and it’s just two hours on the subway (that stops every five minutes in the South Bronx and in Harlem) and my mom didn’t let me go. “But Ma, everybody is going!” And my mother would reply, as always, “You’re not everybody!”
And then I was 20 and leaving home forever and moving to Israel. My parents came with me to the airport and both cried but I was too excited to get on the plane to notice. A few months later my parents themselves made the trip when I married The X. They smiled and hugged and let me have my Bridezilla moments, all the while not liking the person I with whom I had chosen to spend the rest of my life. But they smiled, because deep down my mom had a secret — I am not everybody.
And then I was 28 and the mother of four darling daughters, and I started taking them to New York to visit their grandparents. “Don’t take them to the zoo,” my mother warned, “it’s dangerous.” She didn’t let me introduce them to the narishkeit (nonsense) of my life and made sure I fed them healthy food instead of Entenman’s donuts for breakfast. When I wanted to drag my then 14 and 13 year old daughters down to Fifth Avenue to watch the Thanksgiving Day parade (in the rain), she put a stop to that. “But, Ma, everybody needs to go down there at least once!” And her reply, “You are not everybody!”
And then I was 41 and my father had just died the year before, and I was going through a divorce, my mom was the most supportive mother in the world. I discovered many secrets that year that she didn’t want me to know, and through it all, when I wanted to go and yell out my anger and frustration to the world, my mom put a gentle hand on my arm and said, “You are not everybody.”
And then I was 42, and getting married to a man that I just know my father would have adored, getting married to a man who would treat my mother with respect (even though she never could get his name right), and my mom was too weak and too scared to make the flight out to Israel for the wedding. “But, Ma, everybody’s mother comes out for their wedding.” And you know, by now, what my mother would have said to that.
Six months ago I was proudly shlepping my husband out to finally meet my mom. I don’t know who was more nervous, but this meeting was finally going to happen. And then, Man plans, God laughs. The night before our flight we got the news that my mom had died quietly in her sleep, a burst aortic aneurism. She went in death as she never would have in life, quietly, no fuss, just a small sigh while she slept.
And she is so right — I am not everybody! So to commemorate my first Mother’s Day without my mom, I offer you her recipe for shmaltz. This stuff accompanied me throughout my childhood, always there, ready to support whatever meal my mother placed in front of me. Always there, ready to support, just like my mom.
You can see my mom’s recipe for shmaltz as I originally posted it on Recipezaar in 2004. I wish I made it more often. I wish I had a picture of the stuff to show you, but I don’t, and thanks to widening family waistlines, I won’t be making this anytime soon. But if I ever do think of shmaltz, it always brings back wonderful memories of my mother.