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Don't Tell Your Mother

(by Heidi Mender)

"Your story is powerful, beautiful, and can move mountains...and I love you more than life itself." My mother tells me this along with several clichés such as "You are the wind beneath my wings" and “I love you to the moon and back." When she isn't trying to smother me with words, she does so with food. But she was, and still is, a significant influence on how to be fierce. "Don't tell your mother" was a common phrase in my household.

My birth didn't give her much of a choice to be anything but fierce since I came out with two broken legs. I believe I have broken just about every bone in my body since. Genes depleted me of collagen in parts of my bone structure, which made life complicated for my parents. Protecting your child from the world is one thing, but protecting a child from herself, right from the get-go, is something else entirely.

Not only did they have to protect me from me, but also defend themselves because of me. My mother lived in fear of accusations of child abuse if I was injured merely by attempting to roll over. But her relentless spirit helped her find a specialist, and surgery after surgery allowed me to progress from crawling to walking. She was fierce in her presence in the classroom too, working tirelessly with the school psychologist to make sure I had a "safe" seat right next to the teacher's desk. And she made sure I had enough time to eat my lunch, even if I never wanted what she packed for me.

She always managed to bribe me with my favorite foods right after surgery. I gave in to the bribes and began to notice how fulfilled my mother was when I accepted those offers, which I think inspired her to take some cooking lessons from her older sister Sue. My mom was 21 when I was born, basically just a kid herself. My dad was fresh out of the police academy and working long hours. Mom had dreams of running a beauty shop in Greenwich Village. Having me so soon after getting married rearranged her priorities from wife to mother with significant responsibility.

Aunt Sue taught my mom how to make the perfect noodles for chicken soup or beef stew, the ideal crust for my favorite blackberry pie, and a fabulous pumpkin roll, which became a holiday standard. My sister and I have our loaf of "Dottie bread" every time I go home.

To this day, my mother holds onto those holidays to cook for us, when all we really want is to be present with her.


Heidi Mender is a photographer and videographer who can be found at and @hmender1.

Aunt Sue's Noodles

2 whole eggs

2 egg yolks

dash of salt

2 c. flour, approximately

Beat eggs and egg yolks well, adding a dash of salt.

Stir in enough flour to form a ball.

Divide dough in half and roll out on a floured surface with a floured rolling pin, adding more flour if necessary to keep from sticking.

With a sharp knife, slice thinly.

Set aside on a floured surface to dry, at least 1 hour. (You can freeze extras.)

Drop noodles in boiling chicken or beef broth, reduce heat to medium, and cook, stirring often, until al dente.

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