Being middle-aged has given me some much needed patience and perspective on life, and allowed me to feel much happier about issues that incensed me in my thirties. I appear to have mellowed and chilled out somewhat.
My relationship with my mother-in-law over the years has had its uncomfortable moments, and I have often railed against the differences in our philosophies on life. Her youngest son takes after his father largely, but is probably the family 'sport' in the scientific sense of that word.
However, now that she is firmly ensconced in the aged care facility and a little world often all her own, and I have mellowed and matured over the years into a calmer acceptance of our differing outlooks on life, I find myself mourning the passing of our shared lifestyle of loving our mutual family, and I think of all the ways that I have enjoyed her strengths - fiercely going into battle to right perceived wrongs against any member of the family, entertaining our children at the beach and spending endless amounts of time helping them share the world of fishing and beach holidays, and washing off sandy little legs, and making the best baked dinners that I have ever tasted, and a sublime walnut torte for one of the kid's birthday parties.
I know how she would react in a certain situation, especially when it comes to do with anything in the house proud area after years of encountering it, so in a strange way of paying homage and honouring a keen memory, at the family beach house last week, I thoroughly scrubbed the aluminium foil guards that go under the electric stove top hot plates. I knew what Grandma would want, and so I did it. With pleasure. Although her son did catch me weeping at the stove because the house was full of family holiday ghosts and it was just he and I filling the lonely family space.
So what has this to do with walnuts and dates? Everything of course! Her son grew up on her fabulous home cooking, and is partial to biscuits and slices, and as daughters-in-law the world over have tended to do over time, I've asked her for a recipe or 20. I have a range of recipes written out in her hand with annotations depending on what had worked or not, some sent to me when we lived for 3 years in the tropics of Indonesia and I was looking for some home cooking for homesick family. I've pasted them all into a book and I wish I'd asked for more in anticipation of this time when I wouldn't take them for granted.
I baked the Date and Walnut Slice recipe today and this time I did exactly as directed - didn't double or substitute anything - and they worked beautifully.
For years and years dozens of slices like these came along to the extended family weekly Sunday tennis afternoons, to be eaten in the old shed all ranged around the table and slurping cups of strong hot tea in between sets, the little ones out on the court while it was free, with Papa, learning to hit a ball.
So, is this what it feels like to be becoming the next generation, the older generation, morphing into it while being vaguely aware that this is what is happening? No wonder so many older people talk about the need to be in the moment.
Do you also have memories embedded in recipes or household practices that you catch yourself carrying out in the same way as an elder? Is this just a woman thing, the tracing of the ghosts of women past in routine household chores?