Tshuve: Made cranberry sauces with the cranberries I picked earlier this Fall in Maine
When I took out my mother's cranberry sauce recipes this year, I started to miss her and our particular closeness more than usual. My mom was the kind of person who just couldn't hide her personality. Take a look at the recipes that she sent me on November 22, 1995, and you'll see her personality even shines through here, when she writes about salt and sour cream:
Nana's Cranberry Conserve
Cook until the berries pop:
1 lb cranberries, washed
1/2 c. orange juice
1 c. sugar
1 tsp. salt*
1 c. chopped nuts
1 chopped, seeded orange, peel and all
That's it. Chill and serve. The salt is essential: it replaces a whole nother cup of sugar in the original recipe. In other words, if you want to leave it out, you have to increase the sugar.
Susan Stamberg's Mother-in-Law's Cranberry Relish
Process in the cuisi, or chop very very fine, 2 c. cranberries, 1 small onion
Mix in 1/2 c. sugar, 2 tbs. or more horseradish, 3/4 c. sour cream (you can substitute yoghurt, but what the hell)
Freeze it. When you're ready to serve it, defrost it (don't let it get all warm, though) and whip it. Keep it cold.
So there I was, first thing in the morning, reading these recipes and full of missing my mom. When I went to get dressed, it sort of just happened. I saw her favorite striped t-shirt in my drawer, and decided to put it on. And then I saw her favorite sporty blue sweater, and decided to wear that too. I don't have many of her clothes, but I do have a few other things: an amazing brocade gown that she had made, that fits me like a glove, and a sweater she knit herself. I also have several sweaters, scarves, and even a blanket that she knit for me, but I was on a different path. The pièce de résistance was -- and this isn't actually as gross as it sounds -- a pair of her undies. Why do I have a pair of her undies? Because they are really nice and she never wore them.
In the last years of my mom's life, she had a list of things she couldn't find. The list included a black nightie, some blue underpants, and her family bible -- the one with everyone's birth and death dates in it. She was really upset about the bible. We looked everywhere for it. Everyone she knew knew that she couldn't find the black nightie, the blue undies, and the family bible. Then one year at our annual Christmas gift swap, I drew her name. Detour: many of my Jewish relatives have married non-Jews: Catholics, Protestants, and Mormons, so we have a big family Christmas celebration. We did a gift swap in which we each chose one person's name, and that's who we gave a present to that year. For years, we drew names for our Christmas swap out of a bowl at the end of the Passover seder. So this particular year, I drew my mom. I bought her a beautiful black nightie, a new bible, and a pair of super-comfortable, surprisingly good-looking Ed Hardy underpants. She never got a chance to wear the underpants, and I, not being one to let designer gatkes go to waste, took them back. (Right after my mom died, I was going through boxes of photos to find something good for her obituary, and I found the family bible amidst the photos. It must have gotten mixed in after one Passover, when the family would sometimes look through photos together. It was the first of many times that I desperately wished could tell her something.)
So I put on the Ed Hardy undies too. And here are all the things I did in her clothes: I worked. I made cranberry sauces. I went to a matinée performance of Mrs. Warren's Profession with my friend Tara, and afterwards, when I made my annual donation to Broadway Cares, Cherry Jones thanked me and shook my hand warmly. (Never Done!) I picked up my Pieathon pie. (I never made it over there the other day) and dropped it off at Andy and Jesse's. I went to the library and borrowed two copies of the libretto of Handel's Messiah (for the upcoming Messiah Sing-In at Lincoln Center, which I've always wanted to do, and have also never done.) I came home, made dinner, and dropped, exhausted, on the couch because I've been awake during the nights -- a victim of my upstairs neighbors decision to move furniture til the wee hours. In fact, I'm writing this post at 4:30 AM, after being awakened at 2 AM. (At 2:30 AM, I went upstairs, but their Van Morrison music was so loud they couldn't hear me knock. So I slipped a note under their door, asking them to please stop moving furniture. But by then I was wide awake, and none of the usual tricks would do the trick. So I here I am. But I digress.)
How did it feel to spend a day in my mother's clothes? It felt like remembering in a sweet but not sad way. I think it's true to say that a day doesn't go by when I don't think of my mom and wish I could talk with her, but this felt steadier, and not tied to a longing. I was wearing her favorite sporty blue sweater. She wore it a lot, so every time I caught a glimpse of it on me, I caught a memory glimpse of her. So I guess this thing I have never done before really led me to tshuve, to return, to remember Ann Levison.*
*That was going to be end of the post, but when I decided to link to her obituary, and I saw the photo, I saw that the t-shirt she is wearing in the photo is the t-shirt I wore all day. What can I say, except Shehekhianu.