Clocks, stoves and life & death coincidences

As a child, I grew up singing a song about a clock that counted the seconds of a man’s life. “My Grandfather’s Clock” – Are you familiar with it? The refrain goes like this:

“Ninety years without slumbering
tick, tock, tick, tock
His life seconds numbering
tick, tock, tick, tock
It stopped, short, never to go again
When the old man died”

I recall this song, which I’d always considered a made-up story, because I’ve been thinking a lot about my mother. Her 100th birthday would have been this month. She lived a full, active life until she passed on nine years ago.

Mom's stove served her faithfully.

Mom’s stove served her faithfully.

On the weekend she died, my husband and I drove to Preston, the small eastern-Iowa town where she lived. We intended to spend the weekend, knock off the list of chores Mom invariably had for us, and return on Sunday afternoon. A typical weekend visit home.

When we walked into the kitchen on Friday afternoon, Mom (age 91) was standing at the stove canning tomatoes. That stove got a lot of use, every day for more than 30 years, since putting meals on the table three times a day was a task Mom thoroughly enjoyed. Because it was so well used, it’s no particular surprise that the stove was on its last legs. In fact, three of the four burners worked intermittently, if at all, and the fourth gave out that day.

Well, my mother couldn’t live without a stove, so we all trooped down to the local hardware store, which also sold major appliances, and picked out a new stove. They delivered it to her house on Saturday morning, in time for Mom to bake an apple crisp and cook lunch. Don’t you love small town Iowa?

That same morning, I convinced Mom to throw out the dish cloth she’d been using because it was worn to threads, held together mostly by the thread she used to sew each new hole closed. With a new stove and a new dish cloth, she was all set.

That afternoon, my husband I drove to a nearby town to finish off the list of chores. As we left, Mom lay down to listen to Rush Limbaugh and take a nap, as she did every afternoon.

When we returned, barely an hour and a half later, we learned from a neighbor that while we were gone, Mom got up to defrost the deep freeze. In the process, she had a stroke. Less than six hours later she was dead.

Past the shock of her sudden passing, I couldn’t help but think about Mom’s stove and her dishcloth. They gave out on the day she died. Just like the Grandfather Clock.

Cosmic coincidence? A mysterious link between animate and inanimate? The workings of my idle mind trying to make sense of life and death? I don’t know. But it was curious, and something I think about.

Have you ever experienced something like this?

Channeling my mother

The week before Thanksgiving, I received an email from a friend. She was hosting Thanksgiving dinner and needed a recipe for stuffing. She’d been on line looking, but those recipes were all fancy ingredients. She wanted stuffing like her mother made. She’d talked with another friend and they both came to the same conclusion: Ask Carol.

I told her I was going to do exactly what my mother did. There isn’t a recipe for what Mom did, but I told her everything I remembered. In fact, everything I planned to do when I made stuffing this year. She was delighted. Mom’s recipe of dried bread, giblet broth, eggs, onion, celery & sage was exactly it.

When I compiled the menu for the Thanksgiving dinner I planned to serve, I dug out the recipe Mom always used for fruit salad. More like a desert with the coconut and marshmallows and nuts, but nothing says “holiday dinner” to me like Mom’s salad.

As we were getting ready to bring everything to the table on Thanksgiving Day, the phone rang. My niece in Colorado wondered how many potatoes to peel for a dinner group of 15.  I could almost feel Mom leaning in to listen as we talked; I could see Mom nodding her head as we arrived at a number. My niece left the call with the confidence she wouldn’t let their guests be underfed.

This morning, I pulled out the bread board my dad made for me back in 1967 to roll out the egg noodles to finish out the turkey soup I’d started from the Thanksgiving Day bird. I’d made noodles with Mom and Grandma dozens of times. Today, I shared Mom’s recipe for egg noodles with a friend on Facebook.

I’d heard on a news report this week that most people just throw the carcass away! My mother would never have done that, and you can be sure I am my mother’s daughter.

It’s times like this week that remind me how much of my mother lives on in me. How much confidence I feel knowing that I’m using recipes and sharing wisdom that’s “Mom Tested.” It’s a great feeling.

In case you’ve never made egg noodles but would like to try, here’s the recipe. Super easy!

Mom’s Egg Noodles

1 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs

Mix it all together. Turn out on a floured board. You may need to work in a little more flour if the dough is sticky. Roll the dough out thin. Sprinkle a little flour on the dough and roll it up like a jelly roll. Cut into thin strips. Unroll the noodles so they don’t stick together and let them dry for a while. Drop them into boiling soup.