Quarantine, Deviled Eggs, and Me: Mother’s Day 2020
Well, that Mother’s Day kind of sucked, didn’t it?
My sweet family tried so hard this year. They made me stay in bed an hour and a half after I’d already been awake so they could bring me breakfast. The kids made “fancy juice.” David prepared stuffed French toast and bacon cooked outside on the grill (remember that time I burnt out the microwave when I set the stove on fire? We still haven’t decided on a hood range to replace it because compromise is hard when the other person doesn’t go along with you). There were handmade cards and big mugs of coffee. The kids bought me an incredible t-shirt, and if you’ve seen The Mandalorian, you know what I mean by that.
And then I cried making some deviled eggs.
Let me back up. We had plans to take an early dinner over to my mom’s. We were keeping it simple: hot dogs, salad, corn on the cob. I made mini cheesecakes, and we figured the kids could play outside, or we could watch a movie with her. It would be the six of us and Mom’s caregiver, as usual on a weekend afternoon. The kids would know to wash their hands as soon as they walked in the house, and nobody was allowed close to the caregiver or Mom as best as space allowed. The usual.
My Aunt Mary had mentioned coming too, but we all decided that wasn’t a good idea. Social distancing, of course. Mary and Tim also weren’t planning on seeing their son and his fiancée, which meant that Mary and Tim were then alone on Mother’s Day. But: social distancing. David’s mom hasn’t seen any of us since stay-at-home orders went into effect, because: social distancing. We are trying to do everything right, and that absolutely, for the first time since this thing started, really sucked. Because the knowledge that constantly hangs over our heads is that the only reason we have the okay to see Mom is because she’s dying. Otherwise we’d be waving at her through the window like so many other people are doing (the ones that didn’t high-tail it to the southern beaches as soon as they opened, that is). Otherwise, I wouldn’t have been crying over stupid deviled eggs because we would’ve just gone to brunch and downed omelettes and Bloody Marys like normal, pandemic-free people.
But there I was, that morning before we went over to Mom’s, hunched over a bowl of peeled eggs and hating basically everything. Here’s the thing: My mom loathed cooking, but she’s famous in this little family of ours for her deviled eggs. When she brought them to a summer cookout, they disappeared from the table before she’d been given a drink. Last year, I asked her for the recipe, and what she gave me was a list of ingredients. That’s it. It’s all I have. She eyeballed the quantities whenever she made them, of course, so the one “food” thing I have from my mom to pass down to my kids is a vague list on my iPhone, written along with a to-do list of tasks I’d had to do for her that week (buy bathtub chair, call caregiving company about something). So I sat at the table that Sunday adding this and that to a bowl full of egg yolks and wondering if I was even coming close. I was in a terrible mood with David that morning–even as he helped me peel those blasted eggs–and I couldn’t figure out why. But then I tried to find the cayenne in our pantry only to discover that I’d meant to buy cayenne but never actually bought the cayenne, and I got teary and the kids were asking if I was okay, and I was thinking nope, nope, nope. I’m not okay.
I think I might hate Mother’s Day.
I subbed paprika for the cayenne and finished off the deviled eggs with some fresh chives, which is something my mom wouldn’t have done, but I doubt the eggs tasted like hers, anyway. And we brought the eggs and the hot dogs and the cheesecakes and a bottle of rosé over to Mom’s. She was perky for a bit, but then started getting pains that wouldn’t go away. We had to call the on-call hospice nurse for advice, then give her a Percocet, which helped with the pain but knocked her out so solidly she missed all of dinner anyway.
The deviled eggs were good. Too much apple cider vinegar, I think? But I’ll figure them out eventually. More importantly, I know I’ll figure out plenty of other ways to keep my mom alive for my kids. She didn’t even like cooking, anyway. She’s more alive in the kids when they read the newspaper on the couch, or sneak sweets before the entree, or ask me for help with a crossword. When we dance around the kitchen, that’s Mom. When we crack a joke, when I’m stubborn, when we get excited over the small things outside our window, the birds and the deer and a beach chair on a deck over the ocean, that’ll be Mom.
I’ve always hated Mother’s Day, to tell you the truth of it. The pressure to “prove” your love for your mom: I felt it as a kid, and I see it in David trying to do right by his grieving wife who bursts into tears over hardboiled eggs. I see it in our social distancing or not social distancing because we want to protect our moms or hug our moms and we all just wish we could go back to brunch.
I often told David that when it was my time to be the matriarch (this said when that time seemed very, very far off), all I’d want for Mother’s Day was to be left alone on the back deck with a book and an umbrella for shade. No pressure, I said.
But something tells me I’m going to miss the deviled eggs.