Saturday, May 10, 2014
Mom's left hand
My mother's meatballs brought people together. In a way, they still do.
Cousin John an I were reminiscing just the other day, and when the subject of mom's meatballs came up, as it sometimes will, tears formed in his eyes. John grew up in the apartment right above ours. On Sunday mornings he would come and visit Zia Mary, whose stovetop always overflowed with Sunday Gravy and sausage and braciole and, of course, plenty of meatballs.
"Hey Zia," John would say to my mother, reaching for the plate of fried meatballs as he kissed her cheek. "Mmmm. Love you Zia, you're the best."
John's mother Laura, not unlike all the other women in our family, was a wonderful cook, and made splendid meatballs. And yet my mother's were everybody's favorite. John, after all, wasn't the only one who passed through our kitchen on Sundays. On a slow day, a dozen family members and friends might swing by. More often it was twice that many. We're not talking holidays here, or just every once in a while. This was every Sunday.
I once asked my mother's sister Anna what made mom's meatballs so difficult to replicate. I knew that for decades Anna, Laura, everybody in our family attempted her recipe, to no avail. All my aunt could point to was one thing.
"It was her left hand, we're sure of it," Anna told me. "Nobody else used their left hand to form the meatballs, only your mother. So that has to be it."
We were sitting at her dining room table, sipping coffee and eating Italian cookies that cousin Josephine had made.
"Laura used to get so angry at your mother," my aunt said. "She even used her left hand once, but they still weren't as good. She said your mother must not have given her the whole recipe."
At this point Anna and I began to laugh uncontrollably. After we settled down she went to get another pot of coffee going, but first stopped at my chair and put both hands on my shoulders.
She didn't say a word, but didn't need to.
A mother's memory had brought members of her family together once again.
Happy Mother's Day everybody!