Happy Father and Mother's Day to all
What did I learn from my Father and Mother? Am I more like my Dad or my Mom? As we are about to celebrate Mothers and Father’s Day, I have been trying to identify some of the ways each of their influences “loved me into being”. That’s a line ascribed to Fred Rogers from the film about his life and I really appreciate the question it poses.
Sometimes I attribute the artistic and entrepreneurial parts of my life to my Father. One of the most meaningful things he ever gave me was a book of fonts that he had used to start a business personalizing baseball uniforms. He hand traced and cut letters out of felt and convinced his beloved Aunt Rea to sew them on the back of baseball jerseys. It was a good idea for a startup business that combined his passion for sports and his creative spirit. But alas, providing for four children and a wife before he hit thirty years old cut this dream short.
My Dad’s “real” job turned into selling insurance for the Equitable Life Insurance Company. Their offices were on the top floor of the Carew Tower. When we would visit him there my brothers would open the gigantic windows, make paper airplanes, and sail them into the streets below. I would gaze out the windows in amazement. It was the most spectacular building I had ever seen. My Dad always encouraged my aspirations as an artist. He even bought me a copy of John Nagy How To Draw book that was advertised on TV. He had one of my drawings framed and hung it in on the wall of his office. I was thrilled every time I would visit him to see it hanging in that beautiful building. His support propelled my passion for making art forever. He loved me and my art into being that day.
I have taken my Mother’s contribution to my soul for granted so many times as we often do, just as our children take ours for granted in the same way. I thought about my Mother the other day when I gave a young girl scout a tour of the bakery. She was working on a baking badge and one of her questions was how I had gotten my start as a baker. I immediately went to my Mother, who had provided a delicious freshly prepared dinner for a household of seven every day after a full day of teaching first graders, sometimes to a class of 48 children. We always had dessert too. For years I assumed everyone’s mother knew how to make creme Anglais when the mood struck. She taught me one afternoon while preparing Swiss steak. She wanted to elevate our simple strawberry jello into something special with some vanilla custard poured on top she said. That afternoon I learned the important contribution a Bain-Marie makes to one’s kitchen and the exact moment custard is ready. A perfect creme Anglais, or as some call it English custard, is achieved by gently cooking it in a bain-marie and regularly drawing a line through the thickening custard with your finger on the back of the stirring spoon. It can progress from too thin to a curdled mess in a perilous moment which my mother taught me how to accomplish that day. I cherish that lesson from her. She exposed me to the culinary arts and demonstrated the ability to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary with a simple desire to do so.
I recently saw a picture of my Mother and older brother standing next to each other on Mother’s Day. He was a teenager. My Mother was wearing the dress I had made her for her birthday. I loved making it for her and I loved that she actually wore it. I had learned how to sew in girl scouts, and she had given me my first sewing machine when I graduated from the eighth grade. It was a Singer and I still have it. It’s as if she had given me a treasured piece of jewelry. I used it my entire life. From curtains at BonBonerie, to Halloween costumes for my son. My Mom wasn’t one for long soulful conversations on the front porch, but she gave me the tools to make everyday life better. I hold her philosophy of turning the ordinary into something sublime close to my heart. I am so grateful to have some of each of them showing up in my life every day.