Our new neighbors arrived late Saturday afternoon for a 4th of July picnic here at Vanaprastha. They brought fresh-cut veggies, dip, chips, and coleslaw. Keith grilled brats, and I made slow cooker baked beans, potato salad, and vanilla ice cream with strawberries and blueberries.
Red, white, and blue.
The storms that had been predicted held off, so I set the table outside on the dining deck. The menfolk teased me about my precision, placing the silverware correctly—fork to the left of the plate on top of the napkin, knife and spoon on the right. It did seem funny that I would take such care at a picnic.
“I guess I’m becoming Mother,” I said. “She made sure we were civilized and knew proper etiquette.” Then I spoke about finding a note she had written—probably tucked into a long-ago birthday card —in which she told a story about me as a toddler.
One day she’d heard contented sounds coming from the living room. Apparently, I had climbed up onto the end table and was “reading” Emily Post’s Etiquette book.
“Sort of a funny memory,” I said to my neighbors. “But what I’m really thinking about today is how she organized our neighborhood picnics every year, on the 4th of July and Labor Day. She was a role model for me and my sisters—and many others.”
As I placed the side dishes on the bench next to the grill, I remembered how my dad hitched up the trailer to cart the grill and ice cream freezers down to the big lawn while the moms set up tables for side dishes. The dads grilled and helped us children take turns, cranking the ice cream. The older boys pretend-ran after the younger. We girls giggled at their antics.
These picnics were among my mother’s fondest memories, because she spoke about them many times during her last years, despite dementia.
When it was time to say goodbye, our neighbors said, “Thank you for inviting us.”
“Thank you for coming,” I replied then paused. “I’ve been missing my mother a lot today. You being here was a very special blessing.”
After they left, I read the rest of the words Mother had written in that long-ago note:
“You were just the sweetest baby + I adored you! Then you grew into this wonderful lady with so much going for you! I couldn’t be more proud. Much love, Mother”
We all need much love and fond memories, I thought. I would do well, becoming Mother.