Are You My Mother?
How does the little bird in P.D. Eastman’s classic book, Are You My Mother? know who his mother is? The bird intuits that only his mother will love and cherish him, feed him and care for his welfare, and in his short travels he eliminates those animals and things that cannot do this.
This question has been troubling me as I both wilfully stay away from my mom and devotedly rush to visit. I can’t seem to reach a compromise. Because behind it all, I keep asking myself if she is still my mother.
When my son sent me a picture of my grandson sitting on his new full-sized bed, I dug through old photo albums to find a similar one we had once taken of him when he started sleeping in a bed. As I was searching those long-ago moments, the photos that jumped out at me were those of Mom glowing with happiness at being with her grandchildren, her bright face full of expression, her eyes and smile fully present.
I miss that mom so much. I am envious of my friends who, while their moms may be frail and elderly, still have the ability to carry on a conversation that is rooted in both the past and the present. I, too, want a mom who recognizes my existence and our shared history.
After a week of not seeing Mom, I felt the overwhelming need to return to her, to hold her hand and sing and connect with that inner soul that is still identifiable as Mom.
When I visited, Mom had difficulty rising from her chair. She’s not getting enough exercise and walking is becoming difficult. And when we sat together, there were times when she was absent, her eyes unfocused, staring into nothingness. Then she’d return, and I was able to reach her.
She told me she doesn’t feel anything anymore. When I asked her what she meant, she said she doesn’t feel her hands or feet.
“I feel your hands,” I said, grabbing one and kissing it.
“Your hands are so warm,” she answered, kissing me back.
We revelled in a little hand tickle, an intimacy that I will cherish…and she will forget. But these visits aren’t about me.
That intimacy between mother and child is what the baby bird recognizes in his mother’s question: “Do you know who I am?” “Yes,” he answers.
And my answer: You are the woman who gave birth to me and showered me with love, who helped me become the woman I am today, who gave of herself to me even when we lived far apart, who chose to follow me across oceans and supported me when my kids were small.
Life is a constant source of dilemmas and trials. We are on a roller coaster of ups and downs, of soaring love and deep depression. Our challenge is to approach our complex, emotional situation in a positive light. I can rail all I want against my situation, but it changes nothing. Instead, I must work to find brightness and beauty where I can.
I mourn for my mom. I do. It would be so easy to shut her out completely and pretend she did not exist in her current state. Yet every time I visit I am reminded that somewhere in the numbing reality in which she lives, she is still present. Though my mom has changed in her abilities to negotiate the world, I am still her daughter. And she is still my mother.
Shabbat never takes a holiday, and when it comes round again, I often look for the easiest dinner I can throw together, especially during these lazy summer months. So here it is, a one pot meal of chicken, vegetables and potatoes. And the crowd goes wild!
One-Pot Cinnamon Chicken with Vegetables and Potatoes
The beauty of this all-in-one dish is that it is not only tasty but satisfying. I can put it all in the oven at once and it becomes an entire Shabbat meal with minimum effort.
2 whole chickens cut in half
2 large sweet potatoes, cubed
4 potatoes, cubed
3 carrots, sliced
1 large squash, sliced
10 shallots, peeled
10 garlic cloves, whole and peeled
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 Tbsp date honey
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp curry powder
Salt and pepper to taste
Prepare vegetables and place in the bottom of a large roasting pan. Cut chickens in half and place on top of vegetables. Mix sauce ingredients and rub under and on skin of chicken. Cover pan and bake on 350° for half an hour. Remove foil and bake for an additional 40 minutes. If chicken browns too quickly, place foil loosely over chicken and continue baking until potatoes and carrots can be pierced easily with a knife.