Grandma Made Green Stuff
by Linda Wood Rondeau
My friend, a widow, has set aside a special day to celebrate her husband’s memory. The family gathers for a “Joe Day,” and she prepares his favorite foods. She shares stories so that the grandchildren will not forget him.
In our home, on most holidays, including picnics, Green Stuff always makes an appearance on the table. This is what my children called my mother’s contribution—a creamy blend of whip cream, crushed pineapple, and pistachio instant pudding.
Without fail, my mother brought the much-requested treat to every family dinner. Since her passing, Green Stuff has helped us remember her and brings back cherished memories of fun times—music and laughter. “I remember when Grandma . . .”
Our own grandchildren were young when my mother passed. The presence of Green Stuff gives opportunity to share stories of a generation they cannot remember or even a generation they had never known.
Food can also trigger not so happy memories.
I suppose my mother meant well. She wanted me to grow up healthy and strong. “Eat your vegetables,” she preached as most moms do even today. For the most part, I did grow up with a fondness for vegetables. With the exception of lima beans.
Whenever I see or smell them, all I can remember is being forced to sit at the table. “You may not leave until you’ve eaten every one of those beans!”
I was always a rebel, and I so resented her well-meaning discipline. I wanted to be outside with my friends, not in the house staring at hated beans. I just couldn’t get them down. They stuck in my throat. I think perhaps the sticking part was my own rebellious nature. Even so, to this day, I detest lima beans. I hope when my grandchildren have a feast in my honor, they will leave out lima beans and garnish the table with lots of chocolate choices instead.
Perhaps pleasant memories associated with certain foods are behind children and grandchildren’s requests.
My adult son never fails to ask me to make macaroni soup whenever he visits or we go to his house. I suppose he remembers the dish from those days when hot soup was ready after playing outside on a cold day. I consider the request his way of saying, “Mom, I love you.”
When I was young, my mother made oyster stew for me whenever I was sick. Even today, when hit with a cold, I crave oyster stew. The smell, one my husband does not necessarily like, evokes a time when I felt a mother’s compassion and care, and I am comforted with fond memories of her.
In years past, visits to our daughter’s lasted over several days. The grandkids always looked forward to Grandma’s French toast. They are teenagers now, and we live only an hour away, so we are able to take in some of their sports activities. They look forward to the treats we bring—Grandpa’s chocolate chip cookies or Grandma’s brownies.
Taste and smell are perhaps the most powerful memory inducers we frail humans experience. In an article from Psychology Today, Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D., states, “From pleasant conversations to painful tension and arguments, family meals run the full emotional gamut. Without realizing it, these emotional memories, associated with both the food you ate and the atmosphere in which you ate it, have become part of your adult sense of self.”
Today’s busy mothers ask, “How can I bring an atmosphere of pleasant eating that will produce positive memories when our fast-paced schedule requires we gobble down our food and hurry to the next event? Will my children only associate mealtime with indigestion? Will peanut butter and jelly sandwiches be on their most hated foods list? When they are sick, will they crave Mom’s hot soup or chuck down a bottle of decongestant?”
Perhaps the fast-food, already-cooked, home-delivered meals, or pizza phenomena of today’s harried lifestyles isn’t the demon, but rather the tension associated with these foods. “Hurry up . . . we’ll be late.” Sit-down family meals have become as much a rarity in American families as saying grace.
For many families, Saturday mornings cannot afford the time to make decorative pancakes when there is soccer practice to get to. How, then, do we invite God’s peace into our family conversation when we are rushing from here to there and everywhere in between?
Our rushed lifestyles do not necessarily mean our children aren’t able to associate life-long happy memories with particular foods. Remembrance is more about the atmosphere than where we sit or what we eat. Even burnt toast, served with love, will digest better than the most exquisitely prepared salmon accompanied with strife. Children will associate a smile, a story, or an action with whatever or however food is presented.
We can quiet our hearts, perhaps say grace after we retrieve our McDonald’s fare, make jokes, or sing silly songs. Who knows, in twenty years or so, that laughter and peace we enjoyed as we sped from McDonald’s to little league games, will be the Green Stuff of future generations.
Multi-published and award-winning author, Linda Wood Rondeau is a veteran social worker, her books examine the complexities of human relationships. Her blog, Snark and Sensibility, hosts writers of various genres. She manages a Facebook page, Having the Prime of My Life, a positive look at aging issues. Linda resides in Hagerstown with her husband of forty-plus years. Readers may visit her website at www.lindarondeau.com. Contact the author on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
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