*Sometimes life blesses us with unexpected "moms". In my case, it was my Aunt Mina. She was my great aunt, actually, and as my grandma's sister she helped raise my dad and his siblings while my grandma, a single mother to five, worked a handful of jobs to make ends meet.
As the first born of the next generation, I had a teenage mom and a young dad who both worked long hours. They took me to Mina's house when their shifts started, and I grew up surrounded with the sounds of German accents and daily soaps. We watched "The Young and the Restless" and "Sonny & Cher," puttered around the house and went to church. Time at Mina's house was quiet; there was no radio, no yelling, no background noise like there was at home. But there was attention, and cookies, and old, gnarled fingers that taught me to stitch and needlepoint. There were chats about what good Catholics do (and don't do), the importance of prayer and how to vacuum the carpet. There was butterfly chasing, twirls on the sit and spin, and countless trips through the water sprinkler.
Mina never had children of her own, but she was most definitely a mother to many. She led by example, loved with abandon and saw the beauty of ordinary things. She lived modestly, but cultivated a beautiful garden. The backyard had bushes of what we called swazi berries, and she turned those sour little fruits into the sweetest kuchen (our German version of coffee cake; we said 'coo-ga') I can remember. She also had an amazing array of tulips. They grew along the perimeter of her brick house, and exploded with colors so vibrant people would wander over just to take a peek.
She was diligent about watering those bulbs, but it wasn't until I was older and she was gone that my dad filled me in on her secret: poop tea. She'd fill a watering can with water from the hose and a healthy scoop of cow poop, and let that steep overnight. Then she'd water her plants, and they flourished in appreciation. Now that I'm a mom, I appreciate the time I had with Mina even more than I did before. Tulips have long been my favorite flower, but since Mina's green thumb didn't jump genetic lines and land on me, I celebrate each mother's day by buying a bouquet of my own. They don't last long, but her influence sure did.
Sweet Roll Dough:
Measure 1/2 cup warm water in mixing bowl. Stir in 2 packs of active dry yeast until dissolved. Then stir in 1 1/2 cups lukewarm milk, 2 tsp. salt, 2 eggs, 1/2 cup soft shortening and 5 cups sifted flour. Mix with spoon until smooth. Add enough flour to handle easily; mix with hand. Turn onto lightly floured board, and knead until smooth and elastic (about 5 minutes). Round up in greased bowl, greased side up. Cover with damp cloth and let rise in warm place until doubled (about 1 1/2 hours). Punch down, let rise again until almost double. Divide dough for desired recipes, putting about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick squares in square or oblong baking pans.
Mix together 1 qt. blackberries, 1 cup sugar and 1/2 cup flour, and spread over dough. Top with 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup shortening and 1 cup flour mixed together to form a coarse, crumbly mixture. Sprinkle over the berries. Bake until done. Other fruits such as apricots, peaches, apples or cherries may be used in place of blackberries.
*This was originally published as a guest post for Plum District Kansas City. My savvy and thoughtful friend Deb Clem-Buckert set out to make May the month of moms, and gave anyone interested a platform to share memories, say thank you or somehow celebrate the gift of motherhood.
I have yet to get out to pick up my tulips today, but I will. In the meantime, I'm working off my peanut butter and banana toast breakfast (with strawberries, too, this year) by helping the kids make some new stepping stones for my garden. I'm thinking of all the mothers who I hold in such high regard, and offering prayers of thanks for their influence and example in my life. I think Erin's right, that every day really is Mother's Day. Happy Sunday