(by Corinne Laurance)
I am still unraveling the never-ending layers of my mother’s impact as I continue to navigate through my own life. Since she passed away in 2012, I’ve had nine long years to reflect on life without her and on the life I knew when she held a central role.
Glimpses of her continue revealing themselves to me in even the most basic activities of my day, whether I am making the bed or making a sandwich. Fleeting images of her randomly weave through my mind. I am unable to anticipate them, to extinguish them, or to organize them into any logical order. Like random scenes from a movie, recollections of her continue to evoke powerful emotions from laughter to tears.
Daybreak begins with feeling my mother’s morning presence. Brewing freshly ground coffee, cooking bacon and eggs, and reading the news fill my home just like my memories of childhood weekends. I can almost hear her say “Time for breakfast” or “Hurry, you’re going to be late” or “Take a jacket, it’s chilly outside.” I admit I sometimes find myself reminding others to grab a coat.
I often flash back to the image of her washing dishes and looking out the window when I find myself in the same pose. As I was leaving for school, she would tell me that her homemade flour tortillas would be waiting for me when I got home. Her tortillas were special, and the secret was very simple: manteca. It is pork fat.
Saturday mornings always meant pancakes, hash brown potatoes, scrambled eggs, bacon, and fresh fruit. The two of us would squeeze the oranges for fresh juice. On Sundays, she would proclaim, “Church is so good for the soul,” and like her, I grew into a woman of faith and hope.
My mother’s lessons of self-discipline, staying on task, being organized, and completing the job at hand have given me a sense of determination, accomplishment, and confidence. Painful memories pop into my mind of my struggle with geometry, but I can hear her encouraging words: “Don’t give up. You can do it. You’ll figure it out.” I wanted to quit, but I didn’t want to give up on myself, and I didn’t want to disappoint someone who believed in me. I am now that empathetic cheerleader for others who have their own struggles. It’s funny that my friends sometimes refer to me as an overachiever. Imagine that, Mom.
When my workday dissolves into free time, I can hear my mother saying, “Did you finish your piano lesson? Did you ride your bike? Did you clean your room?“ At times I felt her overbearing and bossy. I challenged her authority with resistance, rebellion, and resentment. But as time went on, respecting the rules, maintaining a tidy home, playing musical instruments, and exercising have become a natural part of my life.
Practicing Spanish at restaurants and dancing to Latin music still bring back thoughts of my mother’s joy, laughter, and silliness. I remember her driving, the way she would come only to a rolling stop, never fully braking at stop signs. I‘d say, “Mom, stop!” but she simply giggled.
And boy did she love to “shop ‘til you drop.” If I pass the cosmetic counter in a store, I'm instantly reminded of her favorite perfume, Yves St. Laurent. I flash back to seeing her dousing perfume, donning fancy clothes and gorgeous makeup, as she got ready to paint the town red. And watching her transformed me from a tomboy into a young lady.
She loved parties. She loved her alcohol. Sometimes she loved it too much. I questioned her choices. I questioned her behavior. There were times I sadly felt she never loved me. I later realized she conveyed love not with words but through her unwavering concern for my welfare.
When I had children, the apples of my eye, I practically tripped over myself protecting them, teaching them right from wrong, setting good examples, and keeping them out of harm’s way. My efforts were met with steady opposition. I found myself falling short time and time again despite my good intentions. A grown daughter who becomes a mother quickly realizes how difficult that role truly is. I began to see my mother in a different light.
Since her passing, wherever I go, whoever I am with, and whatever I am doing, it seems that I am connected to her in magnificent ways, whether through music, preparing food, a regretful mistake, an admirable decision, or even a sneeze. I have come to understand that life is very messy, and there is no manual. We make mistakes, just as our mothers did. They also tripped and fell, had their failures and their triumphs. No matter what my mother’s hardships were and despite her shortcomings, she got back up. For all that my mother contributed to my life, I now understand and I am grateful.
3 c. all-purpose flour
3 – 5 T. lard (bacon grease may be substituted)
1/3 - 1/2 c. hot water
1 t. iodized salt
In a large glass bowl, rub flour, salt, and lard together with hands until mixture is coarsely lumpy.
Slowly drizzle in hot (not boiling) water, a few drops at a time, while mixing continuously and vigorously. Dough will gradually moisten and become sticky.
Sparingly, sprinkle pinches of flour over cutting board.
Transfer dough to cutting board and knead for about 10 minutes, forming a large ball. Sparingly, sprinkle pinches of flour over dough ball only as necessary to decrease stickiness. Sparingly, add drops of hot water to dough if mixture is crumbling.
Continue to knead until dough ball is uniformly smooth and not sticky.
Transfer to a glass bowl and immediately cover snugly with a tea towel, placing it directly on the dough ball to avoid a crust.
Let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Lightly knead dough in bowl, and break off tennis ball-sized pieces, keeping them covered in the bowl with tea towel until ready to be rolled out.
Place a cast iron frying pan over medium-low to medium-high heat (a gas stove is best).
Lightly flour cutting board and rolling pin.
Using palms of hands, flatten out one ball of dough at a time into a thick round.
Roll each round into a large, paper thin circle, picking up dough and reshaping without tearing.
If dough shrinks back after rolling, reshape into a ball and place back into glass bowl with other balls, covering tightly with tea towel. Let rest an additional 10 - 15 minutes.
One at a time, transfer rolled-out dough to dry heated skillet.
Tortilla will begin to appear translucent and show bubbles, which should be pressed down lightly.
When lightly browned (1 – 2 minutes), flip tortilla and let brown on the other side (1 – 2 minutes).
Repeat for each dough ball, wipe out pan with dampened paper towel between cooking each tortilla.
Reduce flame if tortilla blackens rather than browns.
Serve with butter, soups, or use to make burritos.