When I was younger, my mother and I would always drink tea with lemon and eat a snack with it, either chips or crackers. We told each other we would have a competition about who made the best tea.
Music was a way for us to let go of any negativity and dance our way to happiness and positivity. Mom never really complained about anything, but when music touched our ears, our hips were shaking, our hands were in the air, and there were smiles on our faces. We both listened to all types of music. So as long as the song had good rhythm and the lyrics had a good message, we kept the radio on that particular station, whether it was hip-hop, R&B, or pop.
On the day that I’m remembering, I was really surprised to see my mother at home because she rarely took time off from her job, processing applications for health insurance. She worked all the time, except for Thanksgiving and Christmas, when she would watch the parade and The March of the Wooden Soldiers while boiling the potatoes for her famous potato salad, adding hard-cooked eggs, relish, mayonnaise, and mustard. (I learned how to make potato salad from watching her, although mine isn’t as good.) My brothers and I visited her office on “Bring Your Kids to Work” day. She always wore professional outfits—either dresses or suits. One thing for sure, my mother’s clothes and shoes filled two closets and a dresser.
During our music session that day, I noticed that she kept going back and forth to the kitchen to get a handful of potato chips. I wondered why she didn’t take the entire can. I took her place at the computer after she finished checking her email, and she sat on the futon, swaying to the sounds of the radio. I had just come back from my high school team’s soccer game and was going online to mend things with my secret boyfriend at the time. When Ne-yo’s song "Part of the List" was over, my mother turned off the radio. I left the room to check on the tea that I was making. When I returned, I saw my mother’s hand slowly rubbing her phone. I thought perhaps she had received a distressing message, and I called out her name: “Freda, Freda.” There was no response. I looked into another room to ask my brothers what was wrong with Mom, and they thought that I was playing.
It turned out that my mother had a stroke due to a brain aneurysm. Who would’ve known that it would be the last day for us to be together in our special way, dancing our cares away? Now we will never know who makes the best tea.
Nicole Gray is a playwright, screenwriter, and director who lives in New York. She can be found on Facebook and Backstage.
Freda's Potato Salad
5 lb. russet potatoes, chopped into 1 1/2-inch pieces
30 oz. mayonnaise
3 oz. mustard
2 T. pickle relish, or to taste
2 T. salt, or to taste
2 T. pepper, or to taste
6 hard-boiled eggs (chop 4; slice 2 for decorating)
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil, and cook potatoes until a knife pierces them easily.
Drain and allow to cool.
Mix potatoes with mayonnaise, mustard, pickle relish, salt, pepper, and 4 chopped eggs.
Place in serving bowl and decorate with sliced eggs.