Mama’s day

Mama died five Aprils ago. I still wonder a little if she arranged her demise so close to Mother’s Day just to spite me.

Mama was aggravating beyond belief (“a bagel is a taco”), she wielded the wand of guilt with abandon, and to this day I spend much of my time with my shrink talking about her and her idiosyncrasies.

But she taught me to write thank-you letters, a skill that has served me well. She taught me that it was not only okay but important to let corporate execs know my feelings about their inferior products. (“Dear Mattel CEO, Your Hot Wheels cars suck.”)

She not only allowed but encouraged my interest in cooking, driving me all over Creation to find just the right cut of meat. She scurried behind me in the wake of countless kitchen disasters, long before I ever heard of “clean as you go.” She shrugged as I learned the hard way that you can’t caramelize sugar on top of the stove in Pyrex.

She taught me the joy of travel, exploration and discovery. “Is that a historical marker? Let’s see what it says.”

She let me order off the grown-up part of menus.

She could not drive past a turtle, toad or tarantula in a road. She pulled over and waited while my brother and I nudged it to the shoulder or, just as often, brought it home.

She worked hard to convince me that I wasn’t a failure for not knowing what I wanted to do in life.

She also improved the lives of many, many kids she taught over the decades. She treasured the letters she received from students and parents of students she’d helped through Special Ed and other classes.

I still clench my teeth a little when I think of her but Mama was really something.