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  • Miriam Green

Mara


There is always a certain risk involved in taking Mom to the mall. She may not be able to shed her angry morning voice, she may run determinedly away, or she may become overly tired and refuse to move.

Thankfully, today Mom and I had a wonderful outing. We gaily sang our way on the 15 minute walk to the mall, then went shopping in the grocery store. It took more than an hour to shop and make arrangements for the delivery; and though Mom was nonplused some of the time, I kept up a running commentary as we went through our shopping list.

Afterwards, as we sat drinking coffee, Mom’s mood improved dramatically.

“We’ve liked each other for a long time,” she confided to me.

“Yes,” I replied, tickled to be recognized as a trusted individual.

When Mom searched her bag for tissues, she laughingly told me, “I found my nose!”

“I have noses,” she giggled. “I have husbands with noses.”

During my teen years, I was aware that Mom sometimes had episodes of depression. She told me she often felt like two people, and she’d even named her “other” self: Mara, based on the Hebrew word for bitter, mar.

I don’t know how often Mara appeared, possibly because I was involved in the process of growing up and that was much more interesting to me than my mom’s moods. I don’t know that I was aware of what it meant for her to feel depressed, or what she did to alleviate these feelings. As in all marriages, what went on between my parents was of a private nature.

Certainly by the time I got married, these “episodes” seemed to disappear. Perhaps they were menopausal. Now I will never know the extent to which Mom suffered, as now Mom can’t communicate these things.

And now here we are, gauging her mood as best we can, trying to cajole, wheedle, coax, persuade and even force Mom to take part in the world on our terms. It is often Mara who appears in the mornings when my dad must get Mom to wash and dress. And Mara who refuses her medications or demands to go home at night.

This is a live, on-going experiment whose outcome is known but not yet revealed. I pray that this morning’s visit with the psycho-geriatric specialist will help us find a path that will calm Mom’s inner demons and leave the sweet, innocent child intact.

It’s not just cake that can cheer me up. A good, roast chicken packed with taste can also do the trick. Now that it’s citrus season in Israel, I’ve been making this dish almost every week.

Orange Chicken

This dish is not only moist and tasty but eye-poppingly beautiful. The orange slices cook to a lovely shade of orange and the rind becomes toasted. Your guests will be impressed.

2 whole chickens, cut into halves or pieces

1 284 gram jar marmalade (or other jam)

1-2 Jaffa oranges, thinly sliced

¾ cup pomegranate juice

¼ cup lemon juice

¾ cup brown sugar

1 Tbsp mustard

2 Tbsp cornstarch

¼ tsp ground nutmeg

1 tsp garlic crystals

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Cut chickens in half and place in large baking pan. In a small bowl, combine juices and spices. Add mustard and cornstarch and mix until dissolved. Pour sauce over chicken. Spread jam over chicken halves with a spoon. Top with slices of orange. Bake at 375° for one hour. Baste chicken with juices from the pan then return to oven for 15-20 minutes. Cut into pieces to serve.

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