Food and the Freezer: Revisited

I spy five rye breads and eight bags of freshly frozen blueberries. I can barely make out the bag of Pierogi on the left hand side. Has my mother gone vegetarian? This is the not the pork chop stocked freezer I used to know as a kid, where if the family pak yellow Styrofoam slid out over the round of a bread, my toes would get hammered. Things are looking tidy in my parents’ freezer these days. And healthy! Look at all those frozen anti-oxidants. It’s a good thing because it reminds of my mom’s trip to the hospital several years ago.

It started with a mid-day phone call to my sister-in-law Martha.

Mom: “I feel screwdriver in my chest.”
Martha: “Oh my God! Halina, call an ambulance!”
Mom: “No ambulance. Some kinda pain in my chest. “

Martha had the good sense to already have one foot out the door since Ciocia Felicia made a similar call to her several years before that and said, “Feel like elephant on my chest, but I okay.” Felicia’s story ended in quadruple by-pass surgery. Martha knew if my mom was complaining, the situation was already a code Red. My mom did not call an ambulance to head to the Emergency Room as instructed. Instead she waited for Martha who lived one town over to pick her up in the Jeep.

Blocked arteries. “Somebody call Jannett.”

I raced down in my car from Maine and was in the hospital room by the time the Nutritionist showed up. My mother was only able to lie on one side after the catheterization into a groin artery. She half way turned her upper torso to face the Nutritionist.

“HALINA, I’M GOING TO ASK YOU SOME QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR EATING HABITS.” announced the Nutritionist who evidently thought that by being foreign, my mother might also be deaf.

“DO YOU EAT ANY SALADS?”
My mom in a torso twist, answered, “Yes. Every day.”
“DO YOU EAT CANNED SOUPS?
“Oh No,” my mom said, “I make my own soup.”
“YOU PUT EXTRA SALT INTO YOUR SOUP, HALINA?”
“No.No.No,” assured my mom.
“YOU PUT A HAM BONE IN THE SOUP, HALINA?”
“Yessss, sometimes.”
“OKAY HALINA, NO MORE HAM BONES IN THE SOUP, OKaaaaay? YOU HAVE TO WATCH YOUR SODIUM.”

My mom turned away from the Nutritionist, back toward the curtain that split the room in half and said, “You ask too much of me.”

Does Mother Know Best?

My mother is the kind of person who equates walking in parking lots and driving on highways at night with Russian roulette. Every once in a while she gets a superstitious sense that I am doing one or both. I picture her, one hand pressed against her face in worry as she walks by the Pope’s picture in the kitchen. The dried palm leaves jet out from behind the lip of the frame almost touching the phone. She looks at the piece of paper on the fridge where I wrote my cell phone number, squints and punches the buttons on the phone like she’s annoyed at negotiating and calls me.

“Where you are?”

“I’m just leaving the parking lot at Target.”

“Why you shopping late! Do you hear about the woman?”

“No Ma. What woman?”

“Why you no watch the news?”

“Ma, have you been watching 48Hours again? I’m fine.”

She gets all wound up watching murder mystery shows. So while I try to keep her anxiety at bay, I take care to look behind my seat. Occasionally I pause and take into account my mother’s I-told-you-so-track-record. I have put my money down on the wrong horse before. It creeps into my mind that she’s been right about other things in my life more than I can count. Which leads me to sometimes wonder how much to pay attention to my mother’s advice?

Things Mom was right about:

1.) My savings account

2.) Losing weight after 30

3.) clothes with dry clean only tags should be avoided

4.) It’s not the worst thing that could happen

5.) a meal without bread is not a meal

Things Mom was wrong about:

1.) I didn’t die in the Peace Corps.

2.) (Insert sound of wind and tumbleweed here.)

She’s always saying I should be conscious of the czarna godzina (the black hour). And I am which is why money flies easier out of my hands than hers and why traveling to a far off place doesn’t scare me like it does her. Maybe sometimes it’s good to play it safer. All of her hard work and values afford me the comforts and choices that my parents never had. Old world values and new world opportunities wrap around each other and propel the next generation forward, stronger and better off, but with conflict in tow.