On the surface I think I’m very much like her. I’m tall and confident, friendly and engaging. I like to entertain and think of myself as someone who can find something to talk about with just about anyone. I love to throw parties and host dinners and I like to celebrate things and I never stop thinking about how to incorporate good wine and food and friends into every situation. All of these are attributes I always admired about my mother and are ones that I now find myself in possession of.
But last night as I was preparing the meal I planned to serve to our friends I couldn’t help but think about the negative image of that picture and about all the things that make me different from her. I happened across that realization at 7:25 when our guests were due to arrive at 7:30 and I had just finished prepping and preparing absolutely everything.
I stood in the kitchen for a moment making a mental checklist. The goat cheese/tapenade terrine with sliced baguettes was in the oven all ready to be pulled out and presented as hors d’oeuvres, the gratin was also in the oven bubbling away merrily, the tomatoes were sliced and sea-salted and saran-wrapped in the fridge, the asparagus washed, the halibut still marinating but ready to go on the grill, and the individual chocolate souffles for dessert already premade. I’d even gone for a 4 mile run, taken a shower, fixed my hair and put on a pretty shirt. All since coming home from work 2 hours earlier.
It was an odd sensation and one that was amiss from the image I hold in my head of my mother before a dinner party. Not that I think I have to be like her exactly but after she died and I was in my early twenties living in New York I held so fiercely onto the image of her. I clung to whatever figure of her I was able to resurrect in my head and I tried desperately to become that thing so that I could never truly lose her.
But I think, try as I might, and I even stopped trying after a while, I never could have completely become my mother. And if I had succeeded then come 7:25pm last night I would have been standing, not in my neat and orderly pre-prepared kitchen, but rather in the midst of a charmingly chaotic meal planning mess. The asparagus would have been half-washed in the sink, potatoes still needing to go in the oven, whole tomatoes would have been lolling about on the counter and I would have been up to my elbows in lemons attempting to marinate the fish at the last minute. Hors d’oeuvres would not have been attempted until after the guests had arrived and dessert would not have been premade or even thought of yet.
But strangely enough, I feel certain that somehow the same meal would have appeared on the table last night. And I take comfort in knowing that.