Tom’s Mom’s Iron Pot

Twenty years ago or so my mother got a phone call from her mother-in-law, my Mimom, who asked her if she wanted “Tom’s mom’s iron pot.'”  Tom, being my BigDad, that they were clearing out some things in their garage and would my mother want this pot.  My mother, who has a yard, and always has, like something out of House and Garden magazine, immediately responded with a ‘yes’ assuming it was some sort of iron pot that she would use for a planter.  When my dad went to see his parents shortly thereafter and returned home with said pot, my mother was less than amused, as the pot was a dutch oven and not an iron pot that wanted to be part of a landscape design.  No, it was an iron pot that had been used for nearly a century to cook, and cooking is one thing my mother abhors.

Twenty minutes or so after the iron pot arrived at my parent’s house, I got a  call from my mother asking me if I wanted it and I immediately responded with a ‘yes.’  I have used this pot every winter since, and have used it to make sweet and delicate baked apples, savory stews, and wickedly wild chili, I’ve used it to roast chickens and bake pork loins, and I’ve used it decoratively like a cauldron for Halloween decor.  What I love most about the pot is that every time I put it in my oven or on top of my stove, I can’t help but imagine how many meals it held, and for how many people, over its life.

I am one of the least sentimental women you might ever meet, and although my house is filled with beautiful things, I consider myself something of a minimalist.  I don’t care for clutter and I like everything to have a use and a place and am not at all daunted by rainy “CLEAN OUT!” days.  When I moved into this house I swore that I was only putting things in it that I loved and used…no more trying to store a set of dishes I might use once a year, no more having champagne flutes that never move from the back of the top shelf…no, everything that got moved into this house was going to be touched regularly or it was not coming through the door…which is why at times I do in fact drink milk from the one crystal Hermes highball glass I own, and have used hand blown wine glasses for iced tea.  I have many needless objects and useful things that I really love, and this iron pot is one of them.  I also have an enormous stoneware bowl from the 1940’s that was my Pop’s, who was my mother’s father, and when filled with macaroni salad is so heavy I suspect not many 1940’s housewives could have lifted it, and I have a knife my Pop made when he was a cook in the Army, and again, when I use the bowl or use the knife, I feel connected to a past that I know so little about but of which I am a part.

Yesterday late in the afternoon I took Tom’s Mom’s Iron Pot out of the oven and removed the lid and the aroma of beef stew filled the room,which was empty but for two hungry people;  one happily crocheting on her sofa and trying to avert her eyes from all the yard work that needed to be done, and one joyfully watching the Eagles beat the Redskins at the other end of said sofa.  The pot only fed two yesterday, but it has fed as many as twelve in the past.  It is a very useful pot and I smile every time I cook with it.  I am now the keeper and the user of these things and I like to think that those who used these things before me would be proud…of how much I love to cook and feed people I love, of how much I enjoy entertaining and having guests to my home to eat and drink and talk, of how much I treasure these objects that once belonged to them…and I like to think that the more I cook with the two little girls who live next door to me, and the more opportunities I give them to set the table and to plan meals, they will, when they are grown and I am dead, enjoy being the keepers of these things…

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Press On

Whenever I have an issue, a failure, a stumble, and I speak to my Mom about it, she listens, gives me her two-cents and then says, “press on dear.”  She says this almost every single time I have an upset and has said this for most, if not all, of my adult life.  I have often asked myself why I get bogged down in the muck of my heavy thoughts.  I don’t like heavy thoughts that keep me up at night or make me unable to fall into my normal deep and sound sleep, that make me bicker with my boyfriend, that make me short-tempered with my grand-beauties…I like my happy thoughts, my *looking forward to the future and enjoying my present*  thoughts, my *how lucky am I that I live in this amazing house and love my  job which is never boring* thoughts…today at work I had a moment of clarity in what has otherwise been a very hazy couple  months.

I have been beating myself up for months, weeks, days, whatever, over things I have done that I wish I had not, things that I can’t change, and things that make my ‘now’  far less joyful than it generally is…but today the view at work was breathtaking; the sun was bright and warm but not too hot, and the air was not muggy and there were no bugs, the clouds looked like some giant was dabbling with titanium white oil paints and a big fat brush, and I just had one of those, “wow, how lucky am I?” moments…I rapidly made a mental list of all that is right and all that is wonderful in my life and found, as expected and as I damn well know,  that it was so much longer than the itty-bitty list of what is wrong.

I looked my beautiful boyfriend right in the eye this morning and said, “I like us so much better when we are crazy about each other” and without skipping a beat, he grinned that grin that makes me melt and makes my spine tingle and said, “when have we not been?”  and I again was reminded that all that is ‘wrong’  is not as big a deal as I make it in my mind.  My blessings far outweigh my curses.  I have not written in more than a month I think because I have been having such a difficult time coming to grips with aspects of my life that trouble me, and last night a cyber-space friend got me thinking about how it is not unhappiness, not dissatisfaction, not anything specific that is wrong, but just an overall feeling, knowledge I guess if you will, that things are off & unbalanced, and I have to figure out how to put my pieces in an order that feels better and feels right, but today, looking out at the bay, feeling the sun kiss the dimples in my shoulders, feeling the breeze tickle the tops of my ears, all I heard was my mother’s voice, “press on dear” and I felt more capable of changing that which must be changed, than I have felt in so many weeks.