They exemplified the very best of the Greatest Generation, and I was extraordinarily lucky to have had both of them in my life, no question about it. But in terms of kitchen skills and household management know-how, the credit goes mostly to Mom.
I did not fully realize my good fortune until I found myself falling back over and over again on her lessons in domestics while raising and launching my four children.
It took years and decades longer than it should have before I came to truly appreciate her fierce love for her nine children and the incredibly hard work she put into making sure that the transition to independent adulthood was remarkably seamless for all of us.
The thing is, my Mom’s own childhood did not exactly prepare her for the life she ultimately led.
Quite the opposite, in fact.
Raised in great wealth and largely by servants, she never even handled money before the age of eighteen.
And she most definitely was never given the chance to learn how to cook or budget. She always felt that her parents and those around her deemed her too much of the “dumb blonde” to learn.
So when she married my father, a man of modest means, she literally did not know how to boil water.
Let’s just say that as a teacher in rural Maine, my Dad earned essentially starvation wages. And such things as electricity and indoor plumbing were not even a given in the homes where they lived, just to give you an idea.
But Mom was a highly intelligent, determined, and resourceful woman. Over the course of those early years, she transformed herself from a pampered daughter of privilege into a competent farm wife.
By the time we all came along, she could cook and budget with the best of them, grow and can her own food, tend the pigs, cows, and chickens, sew the family’s clothes, AND get her 9 children dressed and ready for school every day and for church every Sunday morning.
But the trauma of those first months and years remained seared in her memory. She became absolutely determined that we, her own children, would never have to endure such a cruel adjustment to the real world when we reached adulthood.
It became her mission in life to foster self-sufficiency and competence in each of us so that we would be prepared to deal with life on our own. To that end, she taught us every practical skill we needed to know in order to function as adults.
The lessons in frugality and practicality that she instilled in my siblings and me from an early age have proven to be a gift beyond measure.
They prepared me very well, not only for running my own busy household, but also for dealing with financial setbacks that included periods of unemployment and more time spent in low-wage jobs than I care to think about.
Her example of fearlessly tackling unfamiliar DIY challenges and learning new skills instilled in me the belief that I could do the same.
That confident, can-do attitude and self-sufficient approach to living prepared me extraordinarily well to cope with the many ups and downs and unexpected circumstances that life has to offer.
Fast forward a few decades to the time when my four sons were beginning their own journeys to independence.
I began hearing a recurring thread in conversations with other parents of teens and young adults - a theme of worry and dismay about their offspring’s apparent lack of preparedness for life on their own.
More than ever, I realized how valuable my Mom’s lessons had been to me, and I found myself wishing that more people had the advantage of her common sense guidance.
When Mom died a few years back, as a form of grief therapy, I began to compile my inherited and otherwise acquired old recipes, along with as many time and money saving ideas as I could remember.
The idea was to pass them along to my sons in some kind of book format. Somewhere along the way, the project took on a life of its own and became this website and blog.
Mom left an indelible mark and continues to influence me in just about everything I do around my home and in how I lead my life even now, decades after I left home.
I continue to benefit daily from her sage advice and counsel, and I am eternally grateful to her for all that she did to make my life easier.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Mom.