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Molly, Mom, and Me

(by Margaret Crane)

(Molly, my oldest son, and me)

My mother approached cooking as cautiously as one might approach an electric fence, so I never got any culinary instruction from her. What I did learn from her was how to set a perfect table (folding the napkins with no seams showing; the fork placed next to the napkin but never on top) and proper manners: Don’t talk with food in your mouth, elbows off the table, sit up straight, do not interrupt your elders, say “Yes, ma’am” and “Yes, sir” when addressing an older person, and stand when they enter a room. Not incidentally, she also passed along a love of literature and the arts and terrific skills at games like Monopoly, Scrabble, and Jotto.

When I got married, my mother didn’t give me any cookbooks or cookware, but one important message that resonated was how to handle money. She was adamant: “Keep your finances separate from your husband’s funds,” she implored. It was a lesson she’d learned as a suburban housewife whose husband was the sole breadwinner. She had to ask my father for money or get his permission to buy anything she wanted, whether