When the one-year anniversary of my mother's passing came around, I found myself in the kitchen preparing some of her favorite dishes. I hadn't planned this, but there I was one hot August afternoon, making her famous soup from the turkey I had roasted the day before.
As I poured myself into cooking, some of the deep sadness I was experiencing at this one-year mark moved through me. I loved my mom's turkey soup, how she cooked the egg noodles right in the broth1, and how they soaked it up and tasted almost like dumplings. I remembered the time she made some especially for me. It was summer then, too, and I had a terrible head cold. She arrived unexpectedly one afternoon at my work place with a huge jar of her turkey noodle soup. I thought about the bread she used to bake and about how much butter she would slather on it, and how we loved to dip it into the broth. I began to feel a little more buoyant amidst the pain of losing her.
While the noodles boiled in the broth in my kitchen, I realized that I was reconnecting with my mother through food. I laughed a bit at myself when I reflected on all the dishes I had cooked that week. Without knowing it, I had created a beautiful ritual to honor my mother and to comfort myself at this vulnerable time. I suddenly felt my mother at hand and was filled with her presence. I was so uplifted and excited that I began talking to her, imagining she were there.
"What else should we make?" I asked of us both, wanting to keep the ritual from ending.
"Irish Potato Pancakes," was the reply.
I hesitated. The thought of these brought up another loss. The last time I made potato pancakes was two and a half years ago. I had taken off my engagement ring to make the dough2, and never found it again. Since then, I resisted using that recipe even though I really liked those pancakes. It's sort of silly, but whenever I considered making them, I felt resentful of their participation3 in my loss, as if they were partly to blame.
My mom should know better than to suggest these, I thought. (I don't even remember her ever making them.) She knew how upset I was about losing my ring. I had always called her whenever I lost something, even when I was away at college, even from across the country, even when I traveled abroad. She had a knack4 for helping5 me find my way to lost things, except for this time.
But despite these hesitations6, I found myself caught up in the joy and celebration of the moment, and I reached for the cookbook without another thought of the ring. My mom did love Irish things, and these were delicious. I opened the large coffee-table cookbook and turned to the pancake recipe. At once, something at the bottom of the page caught my eye... It sparkled! I gasped7 in utter amazement8! There, pressed into the pages of this book, was my diamond ring!
Chills ran up and down my body as my mind raced to ponder how this was at all possible. Hadn't I used the book for other recipes in the course of almost three years? Wouldn't the ring have slipped out during the packing and unpacking9 of two household moves? Hadn't I checked the book for the ring when I had lost it?
My mind was subdued10 as my heart overflowed11 with the magic of gratitude12 and wonder. I slipped my ring onto my trembling hand, and a smile filled my soul as I whispered, "Thanks Mom."
That day, I made potato pancakes in the shape of hearts.