Monday, May 13, 2013

Oatmeal! Canisters!

In 1997, I had an epiphany.  My mother had just died of cancer, my sister had just been diagnosed with cancer, Ian had a new heart murmur, Grace, who was an infant, was failing to gain weight, and Brigid had developed terrifying asthma.*  Jon worked twelve hour shifts on the weekends, so I'd spent Mother's day alone with three children under the age of four.  It was one of the most stressful times of my entire life.  The next day I was at a friend's house, listening to her rant about her disastrous Mother's Day in which they'd had to spend Sunday afternoon visiting her mother-in-law and how her husband, who should have devoted two full days to her had selfishly chosen to visit his own mother and thus, her "Mother's Day weekend experience" was ruined.

Mother's Day weekend experience?  FUCK. YOU.   I was smarting from guilt because a year earlier, my mother had spent her last mother's day alive babysitting for me so that I could go to an adults-only party with Jon's family.  (None of us knew she she was sick then.) I realized that Mother's Day sets us up for failure, by raising expectations and entitlements and tossing chains of guilt around us all.  I decided to set myself and my children free and ban all Mother's Day observance.

Except not, because it's impossible to ignore and even though I tell myself it's a day like any other, I find myself suppressing, "Really? On Mother's Day?" type thoughts when everyday conflicts and issues crop up.  But I really do try not to have expectations.  Ordinary days are really the best days.

What did we do this fine weekend of ordinary days?  Friday night we went with our neighbors for a beer to The Farm  and later put in an appearance at Friday's after five where we met Jon's brother who was in town, packing up our nephew from his first year at UVA.  We finished off the night with a drink at Ten.

Saturday afternoon I went to Fifth Season, ostensibly to buy tomato stakes.  I had no idea they have a nursery out back!  It's also the mother lode of canning, cheese making, and beer brewing supplies.  I left with the stakes and two astilbes, a wide-mouth funnel and canning rack, and a giant canister which now stores our sugar.  Isn't it glorious?
A five pound bag would get lost in here

Why, when sugar and flour come in five pound bags, are canisters so small?  For twenty-one years, I've been pouring partial five-pound bags into my inadequate sugar canister and leaving the half-empty bag in the cupboard until there was room in the canister for it.  I have a similar problem with oatmeal, so as soon as I have time I'm going back for another one.  Years ago, I bought a canister that holds fifteen pounds of flour and I still consider it one of my all-time best purchases.  Suspect I have passed a blogger threshold in photographing my canisters and in shamelessly using mention of oatmeal as an SEO.

Seamus obliged me by taking pictures of the canister shelf at Williams Sonoma when we were in Short Pump on Sunday.  Paltry.  Serious cooks need serious food storage.

Back to Saturday: Seamus made us Alice Waters' Bolognese sauce for dinner on and Jon and I went out for martinis later that night. Sunday afternoon we drove to Richmond to collect Brigid, who will be with us all week until the summer semester starts, which I would consider an awesome Mother's Day present, were I to celebrate it, which I don't, and yet, seem to anyway, at least a tiny bit.

Here's a picture of my mom in 1970 (in the middle) looking groovy with her sister and sister-in-law in the matching skirts that my grandmother crocheted for them.

*My sister was cured, Ian's heart murmur turned out to be harmless, Grace eventually began to gain weight, although it took months to get her back on track, and Brigid's asthma became less severe as she grew, although for many years, we traveled everywhere with a nebulizer.


  1. Those skirts are DIVINE.

    I'm slightly conflicted about Mother's Day. While I love my family making a little bit of a fuss over me, all that flowery talk of mothers being so loving & selfless is not at all true of my mother, whom I've not spoken to in years, so the day just drives home that gaping hole in my life. Edie wants to make a fuss about it, so I let her. Yesterday that fuss took the form of a flourless chocolate torte. The kind of fuss I can totally be on board with.

    Many of my canisters are just old recycled jars, I'm far too cheap to spring for anything else. Does this mean I have to blog about my oatmeal container now too?

  2. I consider yesterday to be a very successful Mother's Day because not once did my husband wish me a Happy Mother's Day. While I'm fine with husbands doing that when the kids are babies, it seems silly once you have a 12 year old. And in addition to that, he took her off to do various things, giving me some alone time. I did make the obligatory phone call to my mother, who I love very much, but still hate talking to on the phone. And I sent her chocolate earlier in the week.

    I agree that most Hallmark days set us up for failure, and I suppose that's why I don't care for them in general.

  3. I have never seen such a glorious sugar container. I might invent a holiday to be celebrate by my daughter giving me this holy grail of gifts. Oh wait...

    I'm glad you included the conclusion about the kids - I can't imagine what a stressful time that must have been. And here's to being a mother every day. Because even when we have to wear skirts like that, mothers still rock.

  4. Sorry, I'm stuck on the fact that you live in VA, yet you can keep a half-open bag of sugar on your pantry shelf. I have kept all sugar in the refrigerator since the great ant invasion of 1997. I am never going through that again.

    Flour is in there, too, thanks to those darn pantry moths. I agree - finding a container to hold 5 lbs of flour that will still fit in the fridge is the Holy Grail of kitchen organization. But, now that most sugar is sold in 4-lb bags instead of 5, the sugar fits easily into the cheap-o rubbermaid container I bought way back in 1994.

    I think about this a lot - can you tell?

  5. I don't like being told I have to celebrate a holiday, but I won't turn down certificates for bathroom cleaning or a free dinner. I keep my expectations very low and they never involve Hallmark.

  6. I have trained my husband and daughters to ignore Mother's Day. I don't want to celebrate it, end of story.

  7. I love that 1970 picture, it takes me back in time. I can picture them breaking out the fondue pot.

  8. Mother's Day is nearly as bad as Prom Night in my mind. And yet I can't help building up my hopes and expectations for what I consider a stupid ass holiday. I'm glad you had a good one this year. Yesterday, my husband I went for a drive and argued for at least 75% of it. When we got home my son told me he had gone to the florist but his debit card was declined. No one had the energy to cook the steaks we were going to eat for a special dinner. I made myself scrambled eggs after everyone went bed and cussed them out in my head. Please remind me next year that, like prom, Mother's Day isn't going to be what I hope it will. Oooh, I didn't know I had this rant in me. See? I just hate the "holiday."

    Those skirts? DIVINE.