I keep waiting for Mom to come out of her room so I can start to make the pancakes. She does NOT like cold food. I keep opening and opening her bedroom door of her beloved row house in Cramer Hill.
“Mom, I’m making you pancakes. Do you want to get dressed?”
Mom dresses and she carefully buttons the nice blue checked blouse that my brother, Ken, has bought her. But, she doesn’t emerge from her room and I don’t want to cook her breakfast and then have to reheat it.
I make myself remember that a woman who will be ninety in a month doesn’t have to hurry. I also make myself remember that a person who just retired doesn’t have to hurry so I prepare the batter, put plates and silverware on the table and cook a few little sausages. Then, I sit and chat with my brother, Bill, about Gray, the cat that the family rescued from a bitter winter, and Gray’s diet of wet and dry food.
Finally, I knock again and Mom says brightly, “Come in!” as if I might be a welcomed, but unexpected visitor.
“Do you want to have pancakes? I’ll make them right now.”
She stands at her desk. I wait. She fools around with papers and photos. I wait. I wait. I WAIT.
“I’m reminiscing.” She picked up a silver-framed photo of my brother Ken when he was three months old. He’s fifty-two now.
“Oh, Mom, he was really cute. Look at him smile.”
“Yes, I don’t know why your little brother doesn’t want me to show him this picture all the time.”
“Aw, he probably loves it. How about pancakes?”
My mother looks at the photo again and walks out of her room to the kitchen table. “I see I have my water and pills here, but no pancakes.” She selects the Wednesday pills from her pill box and she takes the pills with her water.
I pour the batter into the pan and pancakes cook quickly while Mom is eyeing the syrup. “Huh, who does the shopping around here? It’s almost gone.”
I slide the pancakes on her plate and the one little Brown ‘N Serve sausage. She puts butter on the pancakes and pours herself a generous amount of syrup. “What about Bill?” she asks, as she cuts up her food. She always worries if everyone at the table has food. I’d eaten at home.
“Don’t worry. I made him plenty of pancakes and sausages.”
They eat and Bill and I talk about how we loved those little sausages when we were kids. The calorie and fat content data on the box scares me. Glad Mom ate only one. Almost all the calories are FAT CALORIES. Mom is medium, not heavy, not too thin, but still…
Bill clears and the table and washes the dishes. Mom drinks her coffee and she picks up a news magazine. “Did they really behead this man? What for?”
She reads the entire article to me and I think longingly of my self-centered project not to read sad news. It’s not easy. I look at my magazine about home decorating, much more cheerful.
I stay there for a few more hours and we read magazines together. Sometimes it’s hard to find a new topic of conversation, but then Mom will surprise me with one.
“Do you see that frame of the photograph of me on the wall? It cost one hundred dollars. I don’t know why I paid that much money for a frame.”
Mom was a winner in the 2006 Benjamin Franklin Autobiography Project–three hundred words or less–and she had her photo taken by one of Philadelphia’s top portrait photographers. The photo was made into high-quality posters and put into Philly bus stops to commemorate Ben’s autobiography. Mom got to stand next to her photo at a fancy reception for the winners and when they called out her name, she raised her arms in triumph just like Rocky. http://www.benfranklin300.org/autobiographyproject/07_pdfs/Marguerite%20Wunsch-BUS%20SHELTER%20(LR).pdf
(If you can’t reach the site from that address, search ben franklin autobiography project marguerite wunsch.)
“Mom, it’s a beautiful, expensive, huge photo and you’ve had it up there for eight years. You got your money’s worth!”
My mother shakes her head in disbelief at her extravagance, but she smiles.
Written by Marguerite Ferra, Cramer Hill