The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Thursday, August 30, 2007

At the Mama Bird Retirement Nest

by Tricia Dower

They fly in for a visit. Your son and daughter, their spouses and children. The way-beyond- fledglings whose upturned beaks you are anxious to fill with what makes them happy these days: 2% Mediterranean-style yogurt, Egg Beaters, Go Lean Crunch cereal, no-sugar-added raspberry preserves, Nutella hazelnut spread, home style toaster waffles and Tim Horton’s coffee; bananas, blueberries, cherries, melon, strawberries and pineapple; salmon, halibut, steak, pork tenderloin and turkey sandwiches; Cup-A-Soup; multi-grain pasta with fresh basil, tomatoes and parmesan cheese; sliced tomatoes, snow peas, Swiss chard, hummus and baby carrots; nacho, ketchup and pita chips; wine, Stoli orange vodka, Tres Generaciones tequila, Knudsen Tangerine Spritzer Light, Diet Coke and Perrier with lemon; 98% fat-free fudge bars and a Baskin Robbins Sponge Bob ice cream cake.

You make Cowpokes and the youngest two don’t take any. “I did them for you,” you complain, shaming one, at least, into trying a few. “I like them, Grandma,” he says with a surprised smile.

“I thought you ate rice,” you say to your granddaughter a few nights later. She shrugs.

You trek to the store almost daily. Your mantra for ten days: What can I get you? Cleaned-off plates and cleaned-out serving dishes swell your mama bird heart.

It’s the best you can do after they leave the nest. Pretend you still have something to give, some nourishment left inside your no longer fertile body. They don’t really need you to feed them, but they let you. It’s not even close to bedtime stories and make-it-better kisses on scraped knees for them or for you, but it’s love all the same.


(From Rebar restaurant in Victoria)

For 4 servings, you need: 2 large or 4 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and 1 teaspoon coarse salt.

Preheat oven to 400°. Slice the potatoes in half lengthwise, then into ¾” thick wedges. (While baking, the wedges need to stand on their skins, cut side up, so a solid base is required to keep them from toppling over.)

Toss wedges with oil and coarse salt. Arrange them cut side up on a baking tray, leaving space between each ‘poke. Roast for 20 – 35 minutes or until golden and tender. Serve hot. Addictive!

Photo by David Jefferies from this site.


Blogger Anne C. said...


Thu Aug 30, 06:46:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Oh, what?

Thu Aug 30, 01:41:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Anne C. said...

Oh! I feel both sad and guilty.

Thu Aug 30, 02:10:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

That's an interesting reaction. Are you thinking about your own mom?

Thu Aug 30, 02:26:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Anne C. said...

And mother-in-law.

Thu Aug 30, 02:37:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger J.A. McDougall said...

Oh I feel guilty too - for not being more appreciative, for not understanding the unique needs of an mother of adults. Thank you for teaching me something today, Tricia.

Thu Aug 30, 02:46:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Oh, you guys are sweet. I'll bet you're wonderful daughters and daughters-in-law.

Thu Aug 30, 02:58:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Anne C. said...


Thu Aug 30, 02:59:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger tamara said...

ha, anne, you say so much with so few words.

this post made me think no so much about me and my guilt, but more about how my mom is just like this: stuffing me full of anything and everything whenever i go over. i think i understand my own mom a little better now. thanks, tricia.

Thu Aug 30, 03:35:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Antonios Maltezos said...

Honest to God, I have to bribe my mom to mix up a meal for us. If we leave her with the kids for a while, she gets into our snack pile. She eats all my chips!! And I'm the one who's always trying to make her feel guilty. According to what I've read here, she owes me some fancy meals!!!! (To be even more honest, she raised three boys and two girls, and we were constantly eating... so... she may be just a little over that whole cooking for love thing.)

Thu Aug 30, 03:47:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Maybe you live too close by, Tony! I don't get to spoil my kids very often.

Tamara, it's not just the stuffing I enjoy. It's having what they like on hand, especially if it's close to nutritious. I eat so simply these days, it's kind of fun to have "real" food in the fridge for a while.

Thu Aug 30, 04:21:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Denis Taillefer said...

I feel a little sad for the moms, as often kids are not sensitive or understanding enough to appreciate or recognise the love that is being served.

My mother's idea of a great, fun meal hasn't changed in over 40 years. Her specialty is a heaping plate of spaghetti. The spaghetti sauce consists of Heinz tomato juice and a little margarine. That's it. Sometimes she'll slice a few raw, hotdog wieners, or bolagna, and throw them into the mix. mmm... But I think I'd prefer those cowpokes.

Thu Aug 30, 04:48:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Denis Taillefer said...

And wow, Tricia, that's a great photo. They look so vulnerable. And hungry!

Thu Aug 30, 04:59:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

That spaghetti recipe is priceless, Denis. Reminds me of when my mother got too ill to cook, my dad discovered a recipe called Hawaiian Surprise. He made it every time we visited: take a ham steak and arrange canned yams and pineapple slices around it; pour pineapple juice over all and pop it in the oven until it's heated through.

Thu Aug 30, 05:03:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Andrew Tibbetts said...

My mom starts planning the meals the second I mention when we are coming to visit. She talks to me on the phone at least once a week about what she's preparing. This visit 4.5 days, I believe I put on 15 pounds. I'm not kidding. I was 208 before and now I'm 223. And I love every minute of it.

Thu Aug 30, 06:12:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

I just knew your mom was like that, Andrew. And good for you, letting her be so.

Thu Aug 30, 09:01:00 pm GMT-4  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The food was amazing and you are an amazing Mom!!!

What time is dinner????

Thu Aug 30, 10:01:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

You missed it, Kate! Thanks for stopping by. You're an amazing daughter-in-law.

Thu Aug 30, 10:45:00 pm GMT-4  
Anonymous Katie said...

Yes, the food you prepared for us was absolutely incredible and I hope we didn't behave like ungrateful jerks, Mom :)

In terms of our kids - yes - I don't think they really appreciate the effort that goes into preparing meals or packing lunches or heating up Eggo waffles for the 1000th time, but - and I'm sure this will generate debate - I also think that is part of their feeling secure in their environment. A certain amount of taking-for-grantedness is necessary for kids as they grow up and hopefully layers of consideration for their parents and grandparents and other caretakers are added in as they grow up and become more aware and compassionate.

I don't think we truly appreciate all that our parents do for us until later in life. After I first gave birth to CC I was absolutely overwhelmed with gratitude for all that you had done for me, and I finally realized how much you love me. What I felt for my little son...I couldn't comprehend that you had, and still do, feel that for me. I didn't understand all-consuming mother love until I was one.

And the best part of the trip is that we actually got you to engage in deviant behavior by eating a slice of ice cream cake!

Thu Aug 30, 10:54:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Ah, Katie, you were wonderful guests and we shared a whole lot more than food. Thanks so much for your loving words.

Fri Aug 31, 12:46:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Patricia said...

Will you adopt me? Please, for one day...I know I'm older, much...but well, we can pretend. Wonderful post Tricia.

Fri Sep 07, 01:36:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Thanks, Patricia. Maybe I'll start a kid-for-a-day program. But you have to give me your list of food preferences for it to really work.

Sat Sep 08, 01:26:00 pm GMT-4  

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