It’s probably as old as I am. Of indeterminate material – Tin maybe? Aluminum? – scratched, dented and burnt on the bottom, it has accompanied me for my entire adult life. It was my mother’s cooking pot, the one she made beans in on cold, winter days. Red kidney beans, slowly cooked for hours to a hearty thickness, with small amounts of bacon grease added for flavor. We’d eat them with generous slices of fresh sourdough bread.
Other times it would be filled with fudge, which my mother would make using the recipe from the side of the Hershey’s Cocoa can. I’d sit on the counter top, dangling my legs, watching her carefully stirring the hot, bubbling brew with a wooden spoon until it was just the right consistency. Then she would turn it out onto a platter, leaving the pot encrusted with warm fudge sticking to its sides for me to scrape and eat. That was the best part.
I was only 22 when I lost her. We were just becoming close again after many years of me being an adolescent asshole and her being an angry alcoholic. I will never know if I was miserable to her because she drank or if she drank because it was the only way she could tolerate my disrespect. Perhaps it wasn’t one or the other, but a combination of two combustible personalities destined to fail each other’s expectations. Still, when I think of that time I am pummeled with guilt.
But then there’s that old pot and I smile recalling the sound of popcorn exploding against the lid while she shook it until every last kernel surrendered, and the sight of steam rising from boiling spaghetti served with a simple sauce of spices and canned tomatoes. I have so many wonderful memories of my mother in our tiny kitchen preparing food with that pot. It was one of the things she gave me when I moved to my first apartment, and though she has been gone for over 40 years now, it still sits on my stove, tonight waiting to be filled with water for pasta.
If I close my eyes I can see my mother standing there stirring it.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.