“Hello, who’s this?” Mom asks suspiciously.
“Hi, Mom,” I reply as distinctly as I can. “It’s your daughter, Miriam.”
Talking on the phone with Mom is hit or miss. Sometimes she’s sure of how to talk into the receiver, other times she’ll pick up her glasses or even a tissue lying by her bed before she finds the right contraption. When my brother Simon makes his daily call, he calls my dad’s cell phone. That way Mom can see Simon’s photo when she talks to him.
“Oh, Miriam,” she says, “how are you? Where are you calling from? When will you be home?”
I wonder how old Mom thinks I am right now, or if she can even conceptualize she’s 75 and I’m her child. And how do I answer? Do I go with straight facts, or just say something to amuse her? I’m calling, as I often do, to make sure both my parents are ok and to see how the day has been for them. I also call to help Mom mark time with something more interactive than watching the television.
“I’m in my house in Beer Sheva,” I answer. “I’m in my kitchen cooking dinner.”
“The other day I went into my kitchen,” Mom says conversationally, “as I had just finished folding and putting pieces of the white…”
“Chicken?” I prompt, for lack of a better word, as Mom’s train of thought fades away.
Mom mumbles something about the kitchen.
“What did you say?” I ask.
I hear Daddy in the background. He’s been listening in on our conversation.
“Tell Miriam what you said,” he prompts. “What do you think a kitchen is?” He is as curious as I am to know how she’ll answer.
“A kitchen is a place with a funny thing and a funny roof and sometimes you can find it and sometimes you can’t,” Mom declares. “And if you can’t find it, too bad.”
I start laughing. I can also hear daddy laughing. And Mom, still on the phone with me, is pleased she’s said something amusing, so she starts laughing, too.
All in all, a good bit of conversation. I have engaged Mom in the now, if only for a few small moments.
The warmth of her laugh resonates with me as I go about my chores.
Pears show up in our markets at summer’s end and continue their delicious appearance into the winter. Incorporating them into our standard fare adds a sweetness to the cold evenings.
Pear and Pumpkin Soup
Here’s a thick, aromatic soup that is just as good on a weeknight for two as a special weekend dinner with guests.
6 cups pumpkin, cubed
2 pears, quartered and cubed
1 large onion, chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, chopped
4 cups water (more for a thinner soup)
1 tsp cinnamon
Salt and pepper to taste
Sauté onion and garlic in a large soup pot until onions start to brown. Add pumpkin and pears. Add water and spices. Bring to a boil then simmer on low flame for at least one hour. When soup cools, blend with a hand-held blender in the bowl. Serves six.