This morning, as I reached for cumin to spice my refried beans mixture that I was creating for lunch, I almost chose the curry powder. My mind zipped around a bit, thinking about most of the curry dishes that I don't like, and then a soup from long ago that I did like.
And suddenly, I stood in my kitchen, staring out the window at the early morning darkness, mourning a mother who isn't even mine.
Long ago, when I worked at a community college in South Carolina, one of my colleague friends had her parents down for a visit. Her mother was teaching her daughter some soup recipes, and my friend brought us the extras.
We ate a soup made of grated apples, potatoes, yogurt and cumin, which was so delicious that I got the recipe and made it for years. I always blended it for luxurious smoothness. The ingredient list sounds boring, but the soup is wonderful. I'll have to dig it out of my files.
I thought of the path travelled by my friend, her mother, and her daughter. The mother is still alive, but lost to Alzheimer's. My friend has told me all the ways that her mother is no longer the mother she once knew--for example, once she hated applesauce, and now she can't get enough. And yet, the mother she knew is still in there somewhere. Once they sang hymns together--somehow the mother still knew them, even though she wasn't sure she knew her daughter, my friend.
I have gone through a similar process with my grandmother, although I didn't live with her, so I didn't experience the same agony. My grandmother became sweeter as she lost her memories. I don't think my friend is that lucky.
I'm thinking of all the losses that come into a regular life. In a way, it's a mournful way to start the day. I can remember my friend's mother when she was a vibrant woman, the kind of older woman I hope to be. I think of all the mothers I remember this way.
Let me change this mourning to gratitude. I am grateful to have these examples of how to live a life. I'm grateful to have known mothers who are not mine. Although I don't have the daily interactions with my friend that I did when we worked in the same place, we still stay close--a similar trajectory that I share with many friends. It's s different kind of soup, nourishing in a different way.