Last fall, the Urban Farmer and I made a Westward Wander, or what I dubbed #KyleMeetsTheKogels2015, since this was their official meet and greet. My parents toured us around their icy town in Iowa, where they had begun to settle after moving nearly one year prior. My dad pointed out the expanse of farms, the loss of the smaller family farms, the surplus of corn and of course, the donut shop. My mom’s additions to the tour included the trails where she walked with her new friends and the home of an older woman she helped with cleaning.
She mentioned that last detail so nonchalantly, so humbly. Yet that little detail speaks volumes about my mom. She is a giver, a selfless helper, a patient listener and a constant doer. She sends birthday and anniversary cards to everyone, including my dog! She sends care packages with little recipe clippings and encouraging notes, affirming that no matter my crazy pursuit, my mom believes I can not only do it, but do it well.
I could tell you there is no sweeter woman, and you might say, “that’s what everyone says about their moms,” but in my case, it may be true. After attending a church service with my parents, an older woman approached me, so pleased to meet Regina’s daughter. “Your mother has been such a blessing to this community. She has really made a difference, and we are so blessed to have her.” I bit my lip to stifle the tears my sappiness ejects against my will and thanked this woman for sharing that tidbit with me.
Having barely been in that small town for a year, my mom’s presence had already been felt and appreciated. In that moment, in that wash of gratitude, I felt so lucky to be Regina’s daughter, to have grown up with her as my example, to have the parenting bar set by her devotion and sacrifice. Unfortunately, we were nearly 1,000 miles away on Mother’s Day, but my humble mother, was just so grateful to hear my voice on the phone.
Though I couldn’t spend the day with my mom, I was lucky enough to spend it with some other inspiring moms. The Urban Farmer’s mama, grandmother and sister-in-law have always impressed me with their dedication to their families and the way they welcomed me into them. For all their sharing, they deserved a little indulgence to be savored just by them.
Happy Belated Mother’s Day to all you moms, expecting moms and women who mother everyone around them! You may not know it yet, but you’re making a difference!
Long after I should have been sleeping, I laid awake thinking about my dog. I thought about how much I loved this four-legged creature who couldn’t even utter words to me, yet I feel so connected to her. I thought about how I’ve only been away from her for about 2 weeks in her entire lifetime. I thought about how betrayed I felt the one time she growled at me. I thought about how I “joke” about her loving the Urban Farmer more than me because he takes her to the farm, where she has utmost freedom and a sense of purpose.
I thought about how I miss spending the entire day with her, but ultimately, I’m happy she loves the Urban Farmer, and I know the farm is her little sheepdog destiny. In short, I realized just how much I love my little Julep because I’m able to put her happiness above my own. From my sleepless, crazy-dog-lady thought stream, I realized this is only 1/100th of what it must feel like to be a mother.
I am my mother’s daughter- from her cheekbones to her voice, to her profile, her eyes, and her hands, but when it comes to her patience and her selflessness, I am still a child, a mere student trying to copy the experienced professor’s example. When it comes to sacrifice and thoughtfulness, I have yet to find an example greater than her.
As soon as I was old enough to toddle around, I was in her lap attempting to sew with her. In Middle School, she helped me start my own sewing business. In High School, she sewed the prom dresses I designed. She was my sounding board, my moral support, my constant encouragement, and she loved me more than I can imagine, but as I left our home, the very last baby bird to leave the nest, I drifted farther from her in more ways than one.
I needed to find myself, see the world, and figure out where I stood and what I believed. During the course of that time, I distanced myself, a stance my loving mother clearly noted. In one of her many handwritten, thoughtful notes to me, she expressed sadness over the gap that had grown between us, and a piece of my heart broke. I had so selfishly hurt this woman who gave me everything and asked for so little in return- just my company. I’ve tried to mend, tried to mitigate the major differences between us, tried to defend her happiness, but when I think of how much she has given me, I realize how short my efforts have fallen.
This is motherhood, I suppose- sweet and tart, ups and downs, immense joys and immense sorrows, and as all of those extremes flash by way too quickly, the thread of love remains just as secure, despite whatever other unraveling occurs.
I’m not a mother, but I have a deep respect for those exemplary women who nurture that love, for all its burdens and rewards. I respect those women who love with such a powerful force, no other relationship can even come close to its strength. Conversely, I sympathize with those women who want that bond so badly, but for whatever reason, never have the opportunity, or for those who do, but only for a moment. Sweet and tart.
This Mother’s Day, I was, unfortunately, half a country away from the woman who showed me what it means to be a mother, and I owe her more than these words, more gestures to explain the immense gratitude I feel for her gentle love and tireless support. I owe her so much more.
This Mother’s Day, I was fortunate to spend the day with the women who shaped the Urban Farmer, who loved him, nurtured him, and encouraged him to be the ambitious, sympathetic, sincere man who I admire and love wholeheartedly. When I was all too young to be receiving dating advice, my sisters ingrained in me the importance of a man’s relationship with his mother. “If you want to know how he’ll treat you, look at how he treats her,” they told me when the only men in my life were Prince Eric and Aladdin. As an adult, I understand the lessons my sisters were trying to impart, and the Urban Farmer’s relationship with his mother and grandmother only makes me love him more.
These Rhubarb Compotes and Rhubarb Upside Down Cake were for the Mothers on their day. The local, seasonal ingredient choice was a nod to my own mom, who resourcefully collected the stringy stalks from the puzzled neighbors’ yards and returned beautiful, delicious, seemingly effortless desserts in their stead. My Mom was and is magical in the kitchen, but more importantly, she’s just a magical woman. Happy Belated Mother’s Day to my own mother and to all you who endure the sweet times and the tart times of motherhood!
p.s: These sweet & tart compotes would make great baby shower party favors too!
About These Recipes: Rhubarb season is early spring, so take advantage of these two recipes. The upside-down cake contrasts the tartness of the rhubarb with zesty lemon and almond flavors in a moist, spongey cake. Rhubarb compote is perfect on toast, pound cake, ice cream, yogurt, etc, or add a spoonful to the heavy cream and make a tart and tangy whipped cream to top this cake.