Thursday, May 18, 2006

Mother's Day post -- Belated and more about Grandmothers than my Mother

It has been crazy both at work and in my personal life, so I have not posted for a bit.

Mother's Day was last weekend, and I called my mother, of course (I think I was the last of the seven of us who either called or saw her that day). I also had some time on the ride, driving and thinking. I began thinking about my grandmothers.

I am lucky. I had all four grandparents alive to see me graduate from college and to get married. Three of the four lived to see their first great-grandchild, my eldest son.

Some of my reflection is because I spent a part of the weekend cooking spaghetti/tomato sauce for a cast of thousands (just 120 +/-). I made the sauce from scratch, and to do that I do not use a recipe. I do it the way I used to see my grandmother Fitzgerald do it. I start by sweating onions and garlic in olive oil. Then I add basil, oregano, and some bay leaves. Then I add plum tomatoes and cook for a bit. After an hour or so, I add tomato paste (to thicken), and then add spice to taste. I usually add more oregano and more basil, along with some salt, pepper, a little sugar, and some secret ingredients.

So how does the "prettiest Irish girl in Pawtucket" learn how to make a mean sauce (or gravy, if you are from certain parts of Italy)? Well, when they were first married, and when my mother was growing up, my grandparents lived on Riverside Drive in New York just above what is now the George Washington Bridge. At that time the neighborhood was predominately Italian. My mother started her high school career at Mother Cabrini High School (and was taught by nuns who actually knew Mother Cabrini). So she learned from the neighbors.

That got me to thinking about how different my grandmothers were. Grandma Fitz was from a large working/middle class family in Pawtucket. She had several (4?) sisters and a brother, and her father worked hard. My Grandma Golrick grew up as the eldest daughter (4 sisters) of a physician who had a very successful practice on Elmwood Avenue in Providence. She grew up in relative affluence. My grandmother Fitzgerald had some health issues, and never worked outside the home. My grandmother Golrick was an elementary school teacher ever since I could remember. She taught in the Trenton NJ public schools from sometime in the 1950s into the 1970s when she retired.

When I think about my grandparents as couples/parents, I reflect that in each couple there was a disciplinarian, and a "softie." In each case, it was the grandparent who grew up in relative affluence who was the disciplinarian, and the one whose circumstances were more modest was the "softie."

From my grandmother Golrick, I get my love of reading and of grammar. You could call it my appreciation for language. From my grandmother Fitzgerald I get my love of cooking and food as well as my positive outlook. I am grateful to both of them.

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