I was thankful to arrive home safe and sound after my two-week trip to China. Mom didn’t realize I’d been away. I’d been keeping track of events at home during my travels, so I knew that Mom had begun acting out almost every evening as she searched for her way “home,” pacing the floor in her house, desperately searching for the hidden staircase to a non-existent upstairs, and angrily shouting that she needed to leave.
When my daughter Liora returned after a brief visit from my parent’s house with my mom in tow, I was not surprised. It was that time of the evening when Mom’s monsters are unleashed and it becomes harder and harder to reason with her.
As soon as they entered the house, I saw that Mom was in an unusually good mood. Within seconds, however, Mom told us she needed to leave.
Liora and I waylaid her. We invited her in and sat down together and it wasn’t difficult to keep Mom talking. She seemed to be all wound up. We sang songs from South Pacific and let her babble. We were so good at it, that Mom stayed with us for about 20 minutes.
And what did we talk about? Mom called one of us a “silly slow coach,” and told us she had a “quiet nose.” She referred to someone as having “God’s whiskers,” which Liora and I both thought was quite poetic.
And through it all, we laughed together. Here’s a verbatim one-minute transcript of our conversation.
Mom: …the machines and they are pulling out and filling out and putting in all kinds of stuff and it’s mostly for them….
Liora: I never saw.
Mom: …it’s not really for the people who are there (laughter).
Liora: Oh, really?
Miriam: I didn’t know that.
Mom: But they’ve been doing that for a long time and I thought that would be great if someone could, you know, give them a push you know…
Miriam: Give them a push? And they can be God’s whiskers! [repeating her earlier phrase]
Liora: God’s whiskers!
Mom: …yes, and they can be God’s whiskers. I like that. Anyway, Boobalehs… [getting ready to leave]
Miriam: Wait, wait, ah, what’s that other song that I love [from South Pacific]?
[Liora finds the right tune and all three of us burst into song!]
Bloody Mary is the girl I love
Bloody Mary is the girl I love
Now ain’t that too darn bad
Mom: Now the question is, how do people know when…oh, there’s two of you, you’re not the same, you’re not the same thing. But how do you both know when somebody’s not this one and somebody’s not this one.
Miriam: I guess we use our eyes and we use our brains and we make a determination.
Mom: Yes, yes and I bet it comes out nicely, too.
Miriam: Yes, I think so.
Liora: Yeah, yeah.
Mom: Because sometimes it’s, it’s…I also love to watch the—oh gosh, I nearly said it in Hebrew—the, the sound coming out of the, the what-do-you-call it…
Miriam: The musical instruments?
Mom: Yes, I love to see that as well and they’re usually terrific.
Liora finally took Mom back to her house, and Mom was fine the rest of the evening. I am proud of how we connected with Mom, especially as her speech is completely disjointed. Knowing, too, that Liora was leaving in a few days’ time for the US, made our three-generational banter all the more poignant. These are the moments I will cherish.
I missed Thanksgiving while I was in China (though I had my fill of Christmas songs and decorations in Shanghai, of all places!), so I thought I’d make these delicious, spicy pumpkin muffins to make up for it. Besides, eating these makes me happy.
Pumpkin Walnut Muffins
These muffins go well with soup on a cool fall evening. Or, as my friend Sandy discovered, they’re terrific as breakfast.
1 cup sugar
½ cup oil
1½ cups pumpkin, cooked and mashed
2 cups flour
1½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp cloves
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
1 tsp salt
1 cup chopped walnuts
Handful of pumpkin seeds for decoration
Mix sugar and oil. Add eggs and pumpkin. Add flour and remaining dry ingredients and stir until a consistent batter forms. Fold in nuts. Pour batter into greased muffin tin and bake at 400° for 15 minutes. Decorate the top with pumpkin seeds.