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Florence's Family Album:
This month on the 12th of May we again celebrate Mother's Day. We all know that mother love is, at its best, the most unselfish and yet the most vital ingredient nourishing a young life. I remember my gentle mother -- her quiet, watchful attention, her patience, and her wonderful sense of humor.
One particularly memorable incident involving my mother occurred after a shopping expedition back in the mid-1920s. My little brother wanted something beyond our means, and she had told him he couldn't have it -- for just that good reason.
Warde was normally a sweet kid, but on this day, because of the shopping disappointment, he decided to become a completely obnoxious 4-year-old. He refused to come inside the house, and to be sure we were aware of his unhappy state, he stood close to the back door, bawling loudly.
When my mother approached to try to reason with him, he ran crying to the front door. When she went to the front door, he scurried around to the back door. Then he began to march up the street, crying loudly so that everyone in sparsely populated Noe Valley could hear.
My mother soon realized that her logical approach wasn't working, so with a mischievous smile that seemed to say, I'll fix him, she headed for the closet. And although women did not wear pants in those days, she pulled out my father's trousers, stepped into them, and tucked her full skirt inside, which added a rotund bulkiness to her hips. Next she covered her blouse with a big sweater and her head with a man's cap, pushing all her hair, including the large bun, up under the hatband, which gave her head a flat, lumpy look and emphasized her long, slender neck.
Then she slipped out of the house, as my older brother and I, chuckling and enjoying the fun, watched from the window. When Warde finally looked back, he was startled to see this peculiar figure trailing him.
He glanced back a few times, each time increasing the speed of his footsteps. But every time he went faster, our mother, who remained far enough away to not be recognizable, kept pace.
Warde's uneasiness soon changed to alarm, and he broke into a run, racing around the corner of the neighbors' houses, around their backyards, and back down the trail leading to our house.
Mother returned home a more direct route, quickly shed her disguise, and sat awaiting her little rebel as he burst into the room, panting and exclaiming, "Mama, Mama, there's a funny-looking man after me!"
He was now so docile that any punishment seemed unwarranted, and besides, Mother was too busy stifling her laughter.
I don't remember Warde ever misbehaving again, but I do remember him saying, "When you're bad, there's a funny-looking man..."
One should never underestimate the power of creative innovation in child-rearing, especially when humor is added to the mix.
I also recall the evening when it was my turn to host the girls' club which my teenage friends and I had formed. The highlight of our meeting was always the dessert served afterwards. Because I was not very skilled in the kitchen, my mother had offered to prepare the dessert while the girls and I chattered in the living room. As the meeting ended, we rushed to the dining room, where our sweet awaited us.
After sitting down at the table, each girl stared at her plate in disbelief: A fried egg on toast? In the morning perhaps, but for dessert in the evening?
Mother had prepared me for this situation, so as the girls hesitated, I picked up my fork and dived in. My friends politely followed suit, then burst out in peals of laughter. It wasn't breakfast, but rather delicious cake, with whipped cream and an apricot on top. The girls later declared it the most unforgettable dessert ever served to the club.
If you'd like to try this easy dessert, the recipe is printed below. Happy Mother's Day!
Phony Fried Eggs on Toast
You will need:
A loaf of pound cake
Whipping cream, sweetened
A can of whole apricots
Place a slice of pound cake on a plate. Add a puddle of whipped cream to resemble the white of an egg. Top with half of an apricot, for the yolk.