It’s been 20 years since my mom passed, and my sister and I still miss her. When we talk about her, we break down in tears – and, most of the time, break into laughter over some of the things she used to say and do. Mom had some foibles that to this day we can’t explain.

You know how the favorite kid food for many people was a PB&J (peanut butter and jelly) sandwich? Well, my sister and I never really had one until we moved out of the house. You see, Mom, for some unknown reason, put peanut butter in the refrigerator! This gave it the consistency of cement. It would take two days to become smooth, so we did not bother to make PB&J sandwiches. We tried to explain this to her, but she stood her ground.

Talking of standing her ground, Mom was the law in the house. Dad may have been big and scary looking, but he never raised his hands to us. He just had to give us “that look,” and we knew we were in trouble and not to do it again. On the other hand, Mom (all five feet of her) came after us with whatever was in her hands at the time – wooden soup spoon, broom, a school history book – and had this look on her face that scared the hell out of us. My sister and I called her the Screaming Skull. She would laugh at that … and then hit us. When Dad came home from work, he would ask Mom, “Were the kids good today?” She would just say, “I took care of it!” and Dad said nothing.

When Mom was dying of lung cancer, I was with her every day after work before going to my own home. She was cooking me a meal and I was sitting at the kitchen table, and I reached for some M&M candies. She told me not to eat them because supper would be ready in a few minutes, but I reached anyway. She grabbed the candy dish first, got a stool, and put them on the top shelf of the kitchen cabinet. I laughed and said that I could reach up there with no problem. She grabbed a wooden spoon, stood in front of me, and said, “Not with a broken hand, you can’t.” I was 46 years old, but she was still the boss!

Mom also had a way of knowing what was going to happen before it happened. As I left the apartment, she would yell out not to run down the stairs or I would fall. Sure enough, I would hit the first step and slide down the next flight of stairs flat on my back. The moment I always cringed was when she asked how my car was. Sure enough, the car would break down or have a flat. The best was one day when I was going on a date. Walking down the stairs, I ran into a stranger who did not belong in our building, and figured it was him or me. Then I heard Mom call down the hall, “Anthony, do you have enough money on you for tonight?” I assumed I was about to get mugged, but the stranger turned and ran. He must have heard about my mom, and didn’t want to fight her!

One time the superintendent came to the door to tell Mom that the hot water in the building would be turned off for repairs. She walked into the living room and said to Dad and me, “We can fill the tub with hot water tonight so we will have it for tomorrow morning.” Dad looked at me and I at him, and we laughed for an hour! That was my mom: a heart of gold and the enforcer. I miss the touch of her hand and the smile on her face to this day.

To all you grandmothers, mothers, and soon-to-be moms, I wish you a happy Mother’s Day.

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