Memories of mom come often in the kitchen as I use metal measuring cups just like Mom’s to measure shortening and sugar into the medium-sized white, Tupperware bowl - just like Mom’s. I snap the beaters into a hand mixer - just like Mom’s. As the machine mixes, I reflect. “I have owned standing mixers with heavy glass bowls. I sold the last one because I always reach for the hand mixer. I have a great set of modern measuring cups, yet I use my vintage measuring cups.”
That white plastic bowl was just right for cake mixes 60 years ago and still is. The large white Tupperware bowl still holds a double batch of chocolate chip cookies. For picnics in the deep woods, Mom used the smallest white Tupperware bowl filled with water and a wash cloth. In those days before wipes, she made sure we had clean hands and faces.
I have stainless steel pots and pans – just like Mom. Microwave cooking shoved them aside. But for frying, I reach for one of my six cast iron skillets in three sizes – just like Mom’s. My first skillet came from Grandma after I announced my engagement. Grandma reached to the back of her stove for her well seasoned, flavor-encrusted skillet. She never saw the black crust. She saw only that her oldest granddaughter needed a cast iron skillet for her new home. We cleaned it up, and I proceeded to build my own layers of seasoning. I now have six skillets in three sizes. I don’t need any more, but every time I see one at a yard sale, I am tempted.
My kitchen says, “Mom and Grandma knew best. Their way worked.” I wish I remembered the way my mom made that orange-lemonade she carried to picnics in a white Tupperware gallon holder with a lidded spout. I bought an identical one. I could not make orange-lemonade just like mom’s. I sold the container, though I still have the cookie sheets that I begged away from her kitchen. Originally, these were the disposable ends of a stainless steel container at a factory where my dad worked. I have had and donated plenty of other cookie sheets. I keep these. I just prefer the way they bake cookies and pizza. Memories of Mom litter my kitchen, but the sewing room definitely says “Grandma Hibbard,” especially now that I have her black Singer sewing machine in a wooden cabinet with its matching storage bench.
I have it because a couple years ago I asked my cousin Susie, “what happened to Grandma’s sewing machine?”
“It’s been sitting unused at my mom’s house since Grandma died,” Susie said. The next time I visited she gave it to me. We hauled it from New York back home in Arkansas. When we set up the machine, seeds and nest fixings fell to the floor. Hubby doused it with penetrating oil to loosen its gears. I pressed the pedal. It slowly began stitching.
“It does not sound very energetic,” I said, still pressing the pedal. Slowly its speed increased. Then it sort of shook its head like Rip Van Winkle, waking up and taking off lickety split. During mask-making last year, I thrilled at the way it sped down a seam. Now I find myself gravitating to this straight-stitch machine for 95 percent of my sewing. As I sew, I think about the dresses, jumpers and blouses Grandma Hibbard made for us.
Having these kitchen and sewing items at my house isn’t the same as having Grandma or Mom on Mother’s Day, but with these little reminders, each day truly is Mother’s Day with them.
Joan Hershberger is a former staff writer for the El Dorado News-Times and author of “Twenty Gallons of Milk and other columns from the El Dorado News-Times.”