When I was a kid, my father and his wife would take trips with her kids, and leave his kids (my brother and me) behind. At the time, having to stay with Dad’s surgical nurse was a punishment- the step brothers were shepherded to Europe, and I was dumped in the guest room of his employee.
After I got over my teen angst about that, I realized that I had received an unintended gift. A mom, something I didn’t have, had never even knew what that meant. A person that told me repeatedly that “I can do no wrong”, when I had previously believed that was all I could do.
Here’s one of my favorite pictures of Judy from back when her husband Norm were stationed in Germany in the ’60s. I love her impish expression. She looks like Annette Funicello, doesn’t she?
Judy gave me another gift- the gift of cooking. I remember being in her kitchen on Christmas or Thanksgiving, one of those holidays reserved for the stepchildren, so I was on my own. While we were idly chatting in the kitchen (always in the kitchen), Judy had an idea. So she got some carrots out, then peeled, chopped and boiled them. Next they were drained, pureed, mixed with a few ingredients and put in a ramekin and into the oven, and a carrot souffle was in the works to accompany the rack of lamb that was roasting.
I never knew *people* could cook like this. I was a huge fan (and still am) of Stouffer’s Spinach Souffle. It never occurred to me that a person in a home kitchen could create such a marvel.
Judy and I shared recipes and techniques for years. I’ve always been a “seat of my pants” kind of cook, using recipes as a jumping off place, and Judy had the mind of a baker. She trusted recipes and proportions. She knew that someone had labored over it, and she respected that. She was a nurse, after all- you don’t wing it in surgery, you do what’s right and tested. Her recipe box of tried and trues has many cards in my writing, and it makes me so proud.
But more than that, she was a wonderful person. Loving and generous, taking a confused teenager under her wing and showing me kindness, affection and respect. Having an adult that cared about me changed my life. She trusted me, which was so foreign to me at the time, and it took me a long time to realize that she meant it. There wasn’t a false bone in her body.
Don’t get me wrong, she wasn’t a saint. She taught me about “bless your heart”. She had a bawdy sense of humor, especially when it came to her Beaver fur coat. She’d sidle up to you and ask if you’d like to touch her beaver, innocent as you please. It was hilarious. We had an ongoing cat theme, after I hid post-its with cat drawings all over her office. That went on for years. Every card we sent to each other had a cat on it. That’s not always easy, depending on the occasion. Halloween- easy. Thanksgiving, less so.
She passed on March 4th, 2015. I will miss her always, but also always be grateful that she “adopted” me.
Here’s a pic from when she came to visit me in Colorado in about 1995. Yep, that’s her beaver.
I will never forget the gifts she gave me, all intangible, and worth more than any object. She taught me to cook, but she loved me and was always there for me. And it meant, still means, the world.