December 27, 2009

It’s Like Macaroni & Tomatoes

I can see it now as clearly as if it was yesterday. My mom is dancing with the broom to the beat of the Oldsmobile soundtrack that came with our car. A 1985 Cutlass Ciera. Maroon with a silver stripe. The cassette tape is a compilation of all the greatest hits of the time: Billie Jean meets Danger Zone meets Cyndi Lauper’s Time After Time. And my mom sure knows how to dance.

I sit on the floor watching her and The People’s Court as clouds of dirt swirl above me. And when I get hungry, she brings me plates full of ketchup & fish sticks and pink lemonade in a mason jar. I eat and she sweeps. And all is right with the world.

When she’s done cleaning, she makes herself a big bowl of macaroni and stewed tomatoes. And I think it’s the grossest thing I’ve ever seen. But she’s just paying honor to where she came from. Going back to what she’s always known. And taking comfort that there are some things that you can always count on.

When my mom was just 15 years old, she was turned out on her own with only the rent & the electric bill paid through the rest of the month. The cabinets in her old house were completely bare except for a couple boxes of macaroni and a few cans of tomatoes. And that’s how she kept herself alive that month. And then the next and the next.

My mom is the single strongest person I know.

I don’t think I’ve ever told her that. She’s a fighter and a doer and she always comes out swinging. She picked herself up out of that old house and built a real life for herself. And for me. And because of her, I never once had to worry about where my next meal was coming from. There was always an abundance of fish sticks and pink lemonade. Biscuits and gravy. Steak and green beans.

I asked her once how she could stand to still eat macaroni & tomatoes, knowing that it came from such a hard time in her life. And she just looked at me and said, “Sometimes you need to remember the hard times….so you can ever really appreciate the good ones.”

Right now as we’re packing up everything we own and the rent is only paid through the rest of the month, I can’t help thinking of my mom. And how different my “hard times” are from hers. See, I’ve really been stressing about the move and the idea of boxing everything up and leaving it while we’re on tour for two and a half months. But then I think of her and everything she came through, and I just have to smile at how stupid I can really be sometimes.

See because of her, my hard times aren’t really hard at all. And my good times are that much better. So someday (way, way off in the future) when my own kids see me eating fish sticks & ketchup and pink lemonade from a mason jar, and they ask me how I can eat something so gross….Mom, I’m going to tell them about you. About everything you overcame. And, of course, about your dancing. :) And I’m going to tell them that I’m just paying honor to where I came from. Going back to what I’ve always known.

And taking comfort that there are some things…and some people…that you can always count on.

  1. Diane Parsons

    Mary, that was beautiful! It’s nice to come back and thank God and your parents for what you have and what you fought to get! good for you for acknowledging that this time of year!

  2. brandi Lee

    This is just beautiful.

  3. regina holder

    lovely post!! i happen to really like macaroni and tomatoes! i guess it’s a southern thing. now, get busy moving those bins! *hugs* to tired marantz’ and yay! for being in your new house this week!!!

  4. Kathrina

    Thank you for sharing that! Really sometimes we have to look at things in a different perspective and realize things aren’t so bad as we dramatize them to be. Thank you and thank you to your mom.

  5. zena brown

    hi mary this is cute my thing was mac and milk love aunt zena

  6. heather corporan

    Scrambled eggs and ketchup for me!! Stale bread and cocoa for my husband. I love this post. I think for those of us that have these memories, we are all the more stronger for the experiances. What a sweet post. Thank you for sharing!

  7. JC

    beautiful, Mary.
    coffee milkshakes (autocrat) and ‘linguica dogs’ for me…growing up close to New Bedford!

  8. Cathy Crawley

    That’s such a beautiful post. I’m glad you get it :)

  9. Ray

    Of course this entry made me emotional. It’s crazy what your mother went through at only 15 years of age and how she overcame it. She is INDEED an unbelievably strong woman. Thank you for sharing some of her story with us…..Thank you. ;o) P.S. Such a sweet, sweet photo of your mother and you. <3

  10. Crystal

    Please share this recipe with your mom. It’s one of my favorite Mac & Cheese recipes. It’s a little spicy, and it has tomatoes! It’s sooo good.

    She doesn’t have to forget the hard times, but it can’t hurt to tweak that stand-by meal every now and again. ;)

  11. Crystal

    And, no I didn’t miss the point of your mom’s powerful story… it’s just that food is such a powerful tool in a person’s life… i can’t help sharing. (plus, the former personal chef in me loves talking about food… and eating it!)

  12. Kenzie Shores

    I love this. thank you :)

  13. lauren

    thank you for this post, mary.
    we all have our ‘thing’…our version of "macaroni & tomatoes" that we will never forget…and never grow tired of! it’s so important to remember how far we’ve come but more important to remember just where we’ve come from…
    thank you, again!

  14. grandmaIna

    What a beautiful story. I can see why you are so strong and so wonderful! I’m so glad Justin found you!

  15. Brent Pilgrim

    What a beautiful post at a time of the year for family! Thanks for finding my blog Mary, and I now have yours on my "Daily Reads" list. Happy New Year to you too!

  16. maggieb

    …tuggin’ at my heartstrings…

  17. Alice

    This is such a precious portrait!

  18. Nicole

    A beautiful post and a beautiful picture!

  19. Sarah Wellmeier

    you had me at Hello;) As soon as I seen the title;) I was also raised on macaroni and tomatoes….and to this day make about once a week. We love it and yes it does remind me of my childhood:)

    P.S. you look like your mom….Just beautiful!!

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