Grace Under Pressure: When the Party You’re Hosting is a Surprise to You

She doesn’t just smell great. My mom quilts, too. This hummingbird quilt that she made for me has 16 different hummingbirds and 16 different types of flowers appliqued on it.

Perfumes my mom owns: 1 million

Meals my mom has cooked for me in my lifetime: 412,053

Hours we have spent on the phone since I went to college: a lot

I’ve always liked to plan parties.

Unfortunately, my early attempts left out some key elements. Like telling my mom.

When I was in kindergarten, I decided that hosting a Christmas party would be a cool idea. I liked Christmas, and I liked parties.

So I wrote out six invitations to some neighborhood and classroom girlfriends. I even remember calling out to one of them as I got off the bus, “Don’t forget about my party!”

I had planned the shindig for right after school on some random day, like Wednesday. On Tuesday evening, my mom got an angry call from one of the little girl’s moms. She was upset because my mom was throwing a soiree during work hours, and the mom couldn’t get her daughter to the party.

My mom was mystified. “What party?” she asked.

“The Christmas party. I’m holding the invitation right here: Anne is having a Christmas party on Wednesday after school.”

“Does it look like a child’s handwriting?” my mom asked, anticipating the answer before it came out.

“Well, yes.”

The other mom was very angry. My mom was not exactly happy either.

But you know what? I don’t remember her yelling at me.

You know what she did? She baked seven tiny loaf-sized cakes and made up some homemade icing while we were at school. When we all got to my house, the whole place smelled like vanilla and cake and Christmastime. We got to decorate cakes and put on sprinkles and eat and laugh.

That’s the kind of mom I have: I have a smell-good kind of mom.

My mom always smells really good; I’m pretty sure she smells better than all the other moms out there.

Enter my mom’s bathroom, and she has tons of little bottles with varying amounts of perfume. Commercial ones, vintage ones, alternative ones that no one is ever able to find… my mom has them. Although she is not a big fan of the computer as a whole, perfume blogging was a revelation to her. Now she can find out where good-smelling people in Europe buy perfume. She can’t go there, but man, she knows.

It’s not only perfume that makes her smell good. When you hug my mom, you can smell fresh bread and her flower garden and all of her yummy meals.

My mom cooked more than all the other moms. Whether she was being a stay-at-home mom or commuting almost an hour to and from her full-time job, she would roll in and start cooking. I would stand by the stove and watch her, talking the whole time. Do you know that not once did she ask me to give her some space?

I stood by the side of the stove, telling her about my day while she whipped up chicken and green beans and rice or spaghetti or coq au vin or gumbo.

One of my childhood friends liked to come over and play with me on Sundays because she knew my mom would ask her to stay for dinner. We always ate in the dining room and used the china my parents got as wedding gifts. Even for the 80s, it was pretty weird. In a good way.

When a chiropractor friend from California gave her some sourdough starter, my mom made sourdough for years. It’s still one of my favorite smells. At some point, the sourdough starter stopped starting, but she kept on making bread. Cinnamon raisin, multigrain, white, wheat, oatmeal…

When my parents moved to a new city after my sister and I flew out of the nest, my mom got absorbed into a new culture: Lebanese.

My mom is not Lebanese.

But she is a fantastic cook. The ladies of the Maronite Catholic community in her new town took her in and made her a “kibbe” lady. In between her 15 jobs of piano teaching and playing organ, my mom makes kibbe (a ground meat dish) and kaak (Lebanese cookies made with a date filling). If my husband ever has thoughts about leaving me, he remembers the kaak my mom sends him, and he reconsiders. It’s like a sweet insurance policy.

My mom can make anything, and it’s guaranteed to smell good.

There’s no way I can write about everything that makes my mom great, but on this day, I want to say: Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. Wish I could be there to hug you and smell your newest perfume.


18 thoughts on “Grace Under Pressure: When the Party You’re Hosting is a Surprise to You

  1. Holly says:

    Aw. I love this post. You’ve written about so much of what makes our Mom awesome. Love you, Mom!

    In addition to Mom’s cooking being an insurance policy for my husband not leaving me, I have your chocolate chip cookies to rely on. If we ever hit a rough patch, just send some over!

  2. vanster101 says:

    It’s true! That kaak is so wonderful it will cheer me up right away! You go sittie! Happy Mother’s Day! (:

  3. jmmcdowell says:

    A lovely post in honor of your mother. 🙂 Mine has never been such a great cook, but I bake her walnut crescent cookies every Christmas now. And her support of my various hobbies and school activities never wavered. I can’t be there this Mother’s Day, but we’ll be talking later today. 🙂

    • annewoodman says:

      That unwavering support is something that is priceless. And every mom has her strengths… I’m thankful for mine every day. Give her a big virtual hug!

  4. crubin says:

    I’m going to use your mother’s response to your “surprise” party as a guage of how to respond when my boys pull surprises on me. What a wonderful woman. And you were a sweet daughter to keep her company while she cooked. I would love my boys to do the same, but they only periodically grunt in to see when dinner will be ready. Suppose it’s a guy thing. 🙂

    Have a great Mother’s Day!

    • annewoodman says:

      It’s funny–my son is the one who wants to stand around and talk to me while I cook (I think it’s an extrovert thing). It’s only from the parenting perspective that I can now see how stressed she probably was and how she was never anything but welcoming when I hung out. ; )

      Happy Mother’s Day to you, too!

  5. David Gentry says:

    I would think this column is the best mother’s day gift you could give — if I were your mother!

    Love, Dad — or David Gentry, whichever the computer prefers (inside joke — maybe Anne will write about it)

  6. David Gentry says:

    OK–let’s see if I can send my comment under an assumed name.

    This is your mom speaking, (yeah, the one who isn’t so computer-savvy). Thanks for the best Mother’s Day gift ever!

  7. Melissa says:

    Hope you and yours had a wonderful Mother’s Day!

  8. Great post Anne. It made me miss my mother even more. She too was talented in so many ways. But baking Christmas cookies was her speciality.

  9. […] may recall that when I was 5 years old, I planned a Christmas party without telling my mom, I helped plan prom, I planned our wedding, I planned to have two kids, I planned to go back to […]

  10. I’m so glad you linked to this post. This is such a wonderful story and your Mom is obviously such a good and generous soul — especially when she’s compared to the mom of your childhood friend, who sounds like a humorless turd.

    This is a scenario that seems to invite a good chuckle between grownups, prompting dialogue along the lines of, “Kids! What are ya gonna do?” followed by a shrug and a chipper “You tell me!”

    Obviously that mom didn’t get the memo.

  11. […] how I surprised my mom when I was 5, […]

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