She missed so much in my life – graduating college, going to graduate school, getting engaged (and married), and helping me through that confusing quarter-life crisis.
There are so many things that I miss about Mom from her quirky fashion sense (I think she would really like Pajama Jeans), her caring and nurturing nature, and, of course, her favorite foods.
I think it’s odd but whenever I walk through the grocery store and see braunschweiger, or liver sausage, I think of her. The funny loaf of mushy meat that she would spread on crackers over a little layer of margarine.
Or, chipped beef over toast – the salty meat that is thinly sliced and served with a creamy sauce, and slathered over toast triangles. It had another name that people used – “Sh*t on a Shingle.” Really, I don’t think I would want it on shingles, either. I honestly think she was the only person who bought Stouffer’s frozen version. The frozen meat and cream mixture was air-packed tightly in plastic wrap. You needed to poke holes for ventilation before placing it in the microwave to heat it up, or you could boil it on the stove in some hot water.
My mom and I shared a lot of great meals together when I was growing up. After swim practice, she usually would take me to a quick bite at the Red Lobster or Denny’s. I have so many memories of this quality “girl time” with her. Many times on weekends, we would just drive around the state. There was one time we ended up at this little shack of a place – I think it might have been near Horicon Marsh. But, it was a little wooden place with a horseshoe-shaped counter. They had Coke in glass bottles. For a kid, that was amazing.
Then there were the umpteenth times that she would take me to the grill at James Pharmacy in Butler, Wisconsin. It’s no longer there but it was an old-time pharmacy, where everyone knew your name. You could order a cheeseburger that would have those salty, bread and butter pickle disks on them, and then get a crispy order of fries or onion rings. The waitresses wore blue dresses with white collars, and they would jot down your order on green pads of paper.
There was the time when my friend Val was sleeping over and somehow we ended up at truck stop for lunch, just south of Milwaukee. Val ordered a salad with Russian dressing. To this day, every time I drive pass that truck stop on I-94 and Ryan Road, I think of how my mom said to her, “You don’t order salads at truck stops.”
Mom never was healthy enough when I was growing up to cook big family dinners for us. We ate out lots of times, partly because of my dad’s work schedule. I never was able to enjoy her famous fried chicken that my older brother raves about. However, my mom, often times, would make me “peekhole sandwiches.” She would take pieces of white bread and peel a hole out of the middle.I would take the pieces of bread, wad them up and make bread balls to suck on. Mom would butter both sides of the bread and place in a frying pan before cracking an egg in the hole.
The fun part was when we would stand at the stove and right after she made the hole in the bread she would wink through it and I would wink back. Hence the name “peekhole sandwiches.” It took me a long time to learn how to wink. It seemed like forever that I had to use my hand to hold down one of my eyelids before I had the right coordination. I know you can find them sometimes in restaurants – like Cracker Barrel – where they’re called “Eggs in a Basket.” To me, they will always be Mom’s peekhole sandwich.
As I grow older I wish I could turn back time and slow it down. To ask her what she liked to eat as a young girl or what she would cook with my grandmother, or if there are any family recipes that I could try. But, I can’t. I only have memories that I fear are fading far too quickly. There are times that I’m sad that I couldn’t have more time with her. I’ll never be able to share a Thanksgiving with her and Brett and our kids, or she wasn’t there at my side for my wedding’s rehearsal dinner or to taste my wedding cake. I can’t turn back the hands of time or just wish my Mom back. As much as I wish my husband could’ve met her, it’s impossible. It’s days like these that are the tough ones – especially since I can’t be with the rest of my family thousands of miles away.
I didn’t get the taste for braunschweiger or chipped beef on toast. But there is something that I still occasionally will make. It’s a chicken pasta salad made with Miracle Whip, pineapple, Mandarin oranges and peas. It was a simple recipe – no culinary greatness to it at all – but it’s one of those recipes that I cook now with Brett and every time I make it I think of Mom. I’m thinking today may be a good day to make that chicken salad.