Memories Of Spaghetti Sauce
The mother of our dear friend died on Thanksgiving Day.
My husband came into the kitchen, looking down at his phone.
He had just gotten the news.
My heart hurt.
This dear friend was my husband’s best man at our wedding.
This dear friend went to grade school, high school, and college with my husband.
This dear friend shared the driving down to Georgia Tech each year.
In fact, my husband destroyed an eight-track tape on one of their long drives.
Eight-track tapes are unheard of now, but quite popular then.
The story goes that our friend put a tape in to listen to some of his favorite music.
Music in the car is simply white noise to my husband, then and now.
He was so busy driving and concentrating on other things, he never changed the tape.
It played over and over and actually overheated.
When our friend who was in the passenger seat woke up, his Springsteen tape was destroyed.
There are many shared stories that my children listened to with wide eyes.
There are so many shared memories; a precious friendship that has lasted decades.
Our dear friend and his wife were always called, Uncle B and Aunt R.
It was just the way of things.
No explanation necessary.
No qualification; the title stood the test of time.
When I first met our friend’s parents, his mother and I connected right away.
Their last name is a long, melodic, Italian name that begins with the letter, I.
All of us chopped off the first few syllables of that long name.
They were lovingly called, Mr. and Mrs. B.
I remember Mrs. B’s distinct voice.
It was a loud, raspy voice yet filled with a lot of love.
She said she liked me because we went to the same college; almost.
It was then she really explained the story.
She wanted to go to the college from which I graduated.
She was ready to go all those years ago, which was not typical for her generation.
However, she met the man that would be her husband.
She married him instead.
She considered herself an honorary alumni of that college.
I never disputed that honor.
She also liked me because, you are good for him, she would say as she pointed to my husband.
You two are my favorites, she would say and I wondered if she said that to everyone.
Mrs. B was an amazing cook.
She made her famous spaghetti sauce and often delivered it to many grateful people.
She told me the recipe over the phone one day.
I was amazed at the amount of work that went into her sauce making.
When we got married, many of our out of state friends came to the wedding.
The days of formal rehearsal dinners were unheard of back then.
A simple meal at a home would suffice.
There were no plans to do anything special after our wedding rehearsal.
Or so we thought.
Mrs. B had everyone over to her house.
She fed all of us with amazing food she had lovingly prepared.
She made an enormous pot of Italian Wedding Soup with meatballs so small they amazed me.
Her meal was better than any restaurant.
No caterer could have prepared and served the food with such love.
She worked around her kitchen with ease.
She embraced everyone that came through her door; she loved them with a plate of food.
All of our out of state guests stayed in a block of rooms at a local hotel.
It was months after our wedding that we discovered that Mr. B paid for all of those hotel rooms.
We were not family, but we were.
We were loved well.
Mrs. B had cancer and battled it for many years.
She would be terribly sick, go through all of her treatments, and then rebound.
I would see her occasionally at someone’s funeral and thought she looked wonderful.
Then I would hear that she was battling her cancer again.
This last time, the battle won.
And I am sad.
Memories are in my heart.
I see her and her husband in the face of our dear friend and in his children.
The effect of one life.
There is good and bad in all of us.
There is ease and comfort and difficult times.
Through it all, love binds us together.
I went to the visitation.
I passed the easels filled with pictures.
I saw one picture of our dear friend and his mother and my throat tightened.
He loved her and honored her well; he was a good son to his mother.
In one picture, I saw the quintessential Mrs. B.
There she was in her kitchen standing near the sink.
All around her, the counter tops were covered with large, red tomatoes.
Piles and piles of tomatoes literally covered every square inch of counter space.
That was the before picture.
The after picture would have been of a large pot filled with bubbling spaghetti sauce.
The aroma of that spaghetti sauce seemed to emanate from the picture on the easel.
I could smell that spaghetti sauce in my memory.
I greeted extended family in the receiving line.
It was the end of the line I wanted to reach.
I saw the wife of our dear friend first.
She seemed relieved to see a familiar face and we hugged for quite a while.
I reached our dear friend, our best man, the childhood friend of my husband.
Years of memories were in that hug.
Did she really make dinner the night before your wedding? He asked me.
His memory was foggy at that moment.
Too many of those memories to count.
Too many times his mother fed people in their home.
I thought I could smell the faint aroma of spaghetti sauce.
She did and I loved her for it, I said.
I love you, I said to our dear friend.
I love you, too, he said in return.
We both meant it; then, now, and in the days to come.
I just finished our Christmas cards.
This is the first year I will not send a card to Mrs. B.
I will miss her perfect handwriting and the long note she always wrote to me.
You’re good for him, she would say and she meant it.