My mother and I have not always been close.
There was a time when, passing through Vancouver (where I lived for ten years), she’d call me from the airport. She’d been to visit my brother in Seattle. She’d tell me what a lovely time she’d had, and how there hadn’t been time to call me earlier.Then, her boarding call would be announced, and she’d hang up the phone.
I told myself it didn’t matter. I was queer, and had no use for biological family.
Time, and the passing of some family members have melted that sharp, icy wall. It’s a relief. Sometimes you don’t even know that something used to hurt until the source of pain has disappeared.
My mother visited me in Toronto last week. At age 85, she doesn’t travel as much as she used to. But she wanted to check out my new home. And I wanted to give her a holiday from doctor’s appointments, hospitals and the labour of self-care.
We kept each other busy. I made soups and ice cream, and nutritious cereals. She gamely participated in all the actvities I’d organized: a farmer’s market; an art gallery; a fancy restaurant (Frank); a stroll through India Town.
There was a day we spent at home, making perogies. The Librarian, who has taught herself how to make those delicate little doughy things, came over. My ma generously gave us a master class.
The Librarian noticed all the details that make my mom’s perogies so great: the caramelizing of onions; the unbelievable amounts of butter. My ma showed us how to knead the dough until it’s just the right texture. And some important tips: The potatoes have to be really dry. The perogies have to be swathed in butter right after they’re cooked, or they’ll stick together.
I took pictures, mixed up gin and tonics. The Librarian was dead serious, fully focused. The Hair Dude showed up with a bowl of salmon congee she’d made, just for my ma. I was touched; usually people don’t think to bring my mom something she can actually eat.
Three hours after we began cooking, we sat down for dinner, happy, tired, relaxed. Food provided the necessary diplomatic element, mixing up different ingredients: straight, queer, Catholic, Buddhist, Asian, Caucasian, disability, ability, older, younger.
And, I now have a freezer full of perogies.