Moments of Discovery # 8: What’s Inside Mom’s Buffet?

Mother’s house on Anchor Road has been sold. We sold it last fall, just a year ago. After more than seventy years, the Longeneckers do not own this house.

Blizzard of 1966 in front of the house on Anchor Road, Pennsylvania
Blizzard of 1966 in front of the house on Anchor Road, Pennsylvania

But that doesn’t mean there are no memories or longings for home. The Welsh have a word for such a feeling, hiraeth

(n.) a homesickness for a home to which you cannot return, a home which maybe never was; the nostalgia, the yearning, the grief for the lost places of your past

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So, memories and photographs remain.

Mother’s dining room buffet sat at the center of our house, yes at the heart of the first floor. On top of this piece of furniture you could even hear the heart beating where the clock ticked and chimed every fifteen minutes.

Mother’s hands must have removed the white crocheted doilies and dusted the buffet top with lemon Pledge and an oily rag many times. I don’t remember her doing it, but I do remember that I did every Friday.

BuffetMomInside the buffet were treasures: the good china and table linens, her silverware arranged in a blond, wooden box in the middle to bottom drawers. With the crystal in her china closet, Mother had all the accoutrements to entertain friends or relatives with an elegant Sunday dinner every month or two.

WeddingSilver

At the top right of the buffet was a drawer that we opened/shut several times every single day. The partitioned drawer made of mahogany wood and lined on the bottom with maroon velveteen was always arranged the same.

* The keys to the buffet & china closet sat inside a shot glass, scored at the lip, an odd object in a plain, Mennonite household.

* Scotch tape, matches and stamps

* Scissors

Mom had no scissors in a knife block. In fact, she had no knife block. The scissors in the dining room buffet was her all-purpose go-to, cutting fabric, gift wrap,or curling crinkly ribbon.

The scissors was rather fancy with engraved ornamentation with a provenance from England hinted at by the letters E-N-G and a faint letter L remaining. It is probably made of steel, but since it is so tarnished, perhaps silver.

Photo by Jean Longenecker Fairfield, curator of Mother's scissors
Photo by Jean Longenecker Fairfield, now curator of Mother’s scissors

Mother drew the scissors’ blade along the length of crinkly ribbon, gathering several strands to make bows of blue, yellow, pink, or lavender for birthdays or a baby gift.

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During this season of the year, the fluffy bows made of bunched up strands would all be brilliant red or forest green.

On the top left drawer of the buffet, Mom kept stationery, little notes to say thank you, send well wishes or remind the receiver of her strong faith.

MomChristmasCardinside

From her store of plenty, I pass on this Christmas wish to you, pictured here front and back

Peace on earth and good will toward men, women, and children everywhere.


Is there a special object or piece of furniture in your family you want to hold onto? One you plan to pass on to the next generation?

Coming next: A Souper Winter Meal

 

A Grief Observed – Missing Mother

We’re having lunch at Mother’s house today: home-grown tomato sandwiches, Silver Queen corn on the cob, and fresh tossed salad with a wrapped-up cucumber found left in her refrigerator. There is also a boiled egg she cooked recently, but Mom is not here. She is gone, left this life on July 28 just five days after her 96th birthday.

We (my sisters, brother and I) were together in June and had a high old time with Mother, eating out, making butter, playing Uno. In her boxy, blue l989 Dodge Spirit she drove herself to the July Christian Women meeting at The Gathering Place in Mt. Joy, went to the drive-through at her bank and wrote out checks to pay her bills. She attended the Metzler Reunion at Lititz Springs Park shortly before her birthday. A church bulletin in her Bible is dated July 20, 2014. Mom was even up to having lunch on July 23 with Nan Garber from church, who shares the same birthday week. But after that, she began feeling un-well, attributing her sickness to possible food poisoning. However, a pernicious bacteria was taking over her body, which no medical treatment could touch. Her death has stunned us all. We are in shock.

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Yet we are grateful that after a long life of good health and sound mind, her suffering was brief though her influence eternal.

Indeed, the quality of her life was A+ up until the very end. Some snippets from her 3-day hospital stay:

Optimism: “We are having a sunny day today.”

Acceptance: “Whatever the good Lord wants for me . . . .  I am ready to go.”

Wit: As she is moved from her hospital room to ICU she quips: “I want my glasses on, so I can see whether I’m going in the right direction.”

Gratitude: “It’s nice to have a loving family.” And finally . . .

Love: “I love you too!”

Among the songs sung at her funeral a cappella in 4-part harmony at Bossler Mennonite Church was “The Love of God,” a song she requested as she planned her memorial service years ago.

For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

                                    Romans 8: 38, 39

MarianMotherCrista's

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Psychologists tell us grief involves several stages. According to the Kübler-Ross model, they include denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance–eventually. These stages are not always experienced in linear fashion, and they are usually recursive, cycling through body, mind and spirit in relentless waves, unpredictable and strong.

But the death of a father or mother hits its own particular nerve in one’s psyche and heart as I observed traveling to see Mother for the very last time in this life:

Sad poem

“Her absence is like the sky, spread over everything,” notes C. S. Lewis in A Grief Observed.

Jane Howard, in A Different Woman probes the pain inherent in one’s separation from a beloved friend, partner, father or mother:

The death of my mother made me feel like a deck of cards being shuffled by giant, unseen hands.  Parents, however old they and we may grow to be, serve among other things to shield us from a sense of our doom.  As long as they are around, we can avoid the facts of our mortality; we can still be innocent children.  Something, some day will replace that innocence, maybe something more useful, but we cannot know what, or how soon, and while we wait, it hurts.

 

How about you?

Have you experienced loss, gradual or sudden? How have you adjusted to it?

 

Dutch Goose 101

As I shove the casserole dish into the oven, I notice the olive oil spray can, the top of the paper towel holder, knives, and a scissors all besmirched with sausage. When did stuffing a Dutch goose (euphemism for pig stomach) take so much time and effort? It seems my mother just sits on her stool in front of the sink, peels and dices potatoes, mixes them with sausage, fills the stomach cavity, and slips it into the oven. A few hours later she asks me to take it out, all done. Easy as that!

On my last visit to Pennsylvania, I bought chipped beef, a pig stomach (yes, the organ from a hog) from Groff’s Meats, and 7 1/2 pounds of ham loaf from Wenger’s Meats in Elizabethtown. Now at home I’ve thawed the pig stomach and am preparing it as a mystery dish for our daughter’s family. For future reference, I must assemble all the tools required: knives for dicing potatoes, darning needle, white thread, scissors before I begin. And start sooner, for goodness sake!

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Has anyone ever written out a recipe for pig stomach? I don’t know, but I’ve never seen Mother use one, so I call her mid-way in the process to ask for direction.

“How many potatoes should I use?”

“Oh, just however many you think.”

“Eight . . . ten . . . twelve?”

“Oh, it doesn’t matter. You can always put the left-overs in a casserole dish on the side,” so I see now it’s a guessing game.

No other dish I know off blends the culinary and sartorial arts so handily as filling a pig stomach, hence the needle and thread. To begin: the organ does have several orifices: intake, outgo, and a pyloric valve in there somewhere. This particular one has a tear, so I’ll have to stitch up 4 openings. Heaven forbid any of the sausage-potato stuffing leaks out. Mid-way through my first sew-up, I realize I’m stitching the large opening best suited for stuffing, so I have to undo it all, retracting thread through a gooey mess of fleshy tissue. Drat!

IMG_2714  Finally the dish is ready for the oven . . . almost! As I pre-heat the oven, I recall the end of my phone conversation with Mom:

“How long do you bake it?” I ask.

“Oh, whatever you think.” she says.

“Well, I don’t know what to think . . . 2 hours? 3 hours?”

“Just take a look at it, and when it’s golden brown on top and a little bit around the side, it’s done.”

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Using the convection feature on my oven part of the time, the baking time turns out to be about 2 1/2 hours and after “resting,” ready to serve.

After gobbling up his first serving, Patrick speaks up, “NaNa, this is as good as ham loaf! May I have some more?” Jenna joins in with yummy sounds. There are requests for more all around the table now, and I’m happy it’s a hit.

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Sustenance for the body, that it is. But more than that, it has occurred to me, we are experiencing what always happens when family gets together: stuffing memories into the space of our hearts as well.

So, I’ll do it all again with our son’s family after my next trip north when I visit Groff’s. Incidentally, Groff’s Meats has begun selling pig stomachs already filled for the princely sum of $ 15.00.

I have to say, I’d charge $ 25.00, more if I have to re-stitch!

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 ã Marian Beaman