Over the course of many years, my family’s Mother’s Day celebrations evolved into a set of cherished rituals. When I woke up and headed to the kitchen for my first cup of coffee, I would inevitably be greeted by the overwhelming fragrance of an instant garden spread out over the dining room table. The Saturday afternoon before, my husband always trekked to the local garden center to purchase my gift – every single item on my list of suggestions! Despite my pleas that he choose only one or two selections from among the baskets, hanging plants, perennials, and annuals that I included on my wish list, with the help of the genial proprietor of the garden center, he would insist on purchasing everything I desired. If I tried to suggest only a plant or two, my husband would protest that the nursery might be sold out, and he needed more items from which to choose. He was a giving person with a big heart when it came to those he loved.
The breakfast menu was always French toast and bacon. Later in the day, my brother and sister-in-law would arrive with my mom, followed by our son, daughter, and her family. We sat around and chatted, after which some of the entourage would head out to the garden center themselves to pick up tomatoes, herbs, and other vegetables and flowers for May planting. For dinner, we ordered takeout from a favorite Italian restaurant. Rain or shine, cold or mild, we enjoyed our Mother’s Day tradition.
My mom, our steadfast anchor, has been gone for a while; my brother and sister-in-law stopped coming because it was too painful for them to celebrate without her. My husband’s health declined, and he was too frail to go to the nursery to buy me a flower garden. The beloved Italian restaurant closed. But we adapted. We found a substitute restaurant from which to order our dinner. Our daughter conferred with her father and picked out his gift for me. Despite a smaller party, we continued to troop to the garden center as always.
This year has been one of loss and sadness for my family. There will be no flowers waiting on the dining room table for me to exclaim over. No phone call from my out-of-town brother. The weather forecast is bleak. Still, we have much to be grateful for. So, we will continue to celebrate Mother’s Day, but I have decided to break with tradition and to do something different for a different kind of year. I plan to have a tea in honor of my mother, who dearly loved her cuppa. I will use my mother-in-law’s bone china, make my daughter’s favorite tea sandwiches, and bake some date nut bread from an old recipe that my mother wrote out for me on lined school paper a very long time ago.
Date Nut Bread
Ingredients: 1 cup of chopped dates, 1 tsp of baking soda, 1 tsp of butter, 3/4 cup of boiling water, 3/4 cup of sugar, 1egg yolk slightly beaten, 1 tsp of vanilla, 1 3/4 cup of flour, pinch of salt, 1 egg white beaten until soft peaks form, and 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts.
Procedure: Place dates, baking soda, and butter in a large bowl. Pour the boiling water over the mixture, stir, and let cool. Add the sugar, egg yolk, and vanilla and stir to mix well. Then add the flour and salt. Stir again and fold in the beaten egg white and walnuts. Mix well but do not beat. Pour into 1 large loaf pan or 3 small ones that have been coated with non-stick spray and dusted lightly with flour. Bake in a 325 degree oven until a toothpick comes out clean – 1 hour for a large loaf and 45 minutes for the smaller ones. Cool on a rack, slice, and serve plain or with cream cheese.