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Community - May 9, 2012

Woodside memories: Mother's advice a life's gift

by Marie Wagner Krenz

This morning as I put a pot of water on the stove, Mother's words returned: "Once the water boils, turn it down; it won't get any hotter."

I began to think of her example and her many bits of advice that have governed and enhanced my life over the decades. I listened to her then, and I still hear her in my heart.

"Treasure your friendships and keep them in repair," she said, and I have. I met my friend Cathy almost 80 years ago on the first day of kindergarten. To this day she's one of my nearest and dearest.

Mother suggested that to maintain a rewarding social life I should instigate the formation of small groups and clubs that meet often and regularly. Because of her words, one 10-member dinner group assembled every six weeks for over 50 years. Another club of eight dined together almost as often and for just as long.

To keep these gatherings going, my friends and I planned simple potlucks that burdened no one. Our casseroles and salads placed end to end could have stretched for blocks.

One bridge group has met on the first Friday of the month for 53 years. Our conversational level is as high as ever, but the subject matter has changed from our own children's activities to those of our grandchildren, and for a couple of us, those of great-grandchildren. We all cherish those Friday mornings.

"For family and friends, make your meals attractive," she said and did.

Even as a small child I stood at Mother's elbow and watched as she sprinkled on a bit of chopped parsley, a sprig of mint, or a dash of paprika to beautify an entree.

To improve mundane tuna sandwiches, she used a dash of Worcestershire, a little vinegar, mayonnaise, chopped celery, onion, and green pepper. My little granddaughter often requests Mother's tuna sandwiches when she is with me at noontime.

Mother kept her home warm and welcoming. When guests arrived, even on a sunny day, I watched as she lit a lamp in the entry, and sometimes those in the living room.

For my own gatherings, she urged me to get out Grandmother's guest towels, the ones with the hand-crocheted edges, even if they are a pain to iron. These little touches add a special gift to hospitality.

Because of her I learned that no guest table is complete without a living centerpiece. If nothing much is blooming, three different kinds of greenery and just one flower will suffice.

When I was married, Mother had worthwhile thoughts I never forgot. She encouraged me to show my husband love and appreciation, and that when he left in the morning, to walk outside with him to say good-bye, and if I was the first to depart, to reserve an extra minute to give him a special hug. He'd hurry home sooner in the evening.

"Keep your marriage young and new," she advised. "Find activities you both enjoy, but reserve time for personal hobbies and interests. Play silly tricks, but only rarely." (Here, I had one of my own. Should your husband arise in the night, quickly make the bed, even with the bedspread and throw pillows, then hide on the floor. This is good for a laugh, at least once).

"Every so often have a company dinner," she said, "just for you and the family. Get out the good dishes, light the candles, pour the wine, and dress up. Everyone enjoys a party, and who better than your husband and children?"

Mother said not to be over-critical with the children, that their grades don't matter as long as they do their best. They need love and support and a regular schedule.

"Inter-generational contacts are important to little ones. They thrive on being part of a larger group and feel protected."

I remember as a little girl going to birthday parties, knowing that I looked especially nice. Mother always curled my hair and dressed me in my best. She even put a dab of salad oil on my black patent Mary-Janes to freshen them.

From my earliest days Mother was there for me, and what she taught me is with me forever. I think of her often, and I know she has never left me. Happy Mother's Day, Mom.

About the author: Since the late 1920s Marie Wagner Krenz has been spending weekends and summers at the Woodside property purchased by her grandparents in 1918. She is a freelance writer from Orinda and has recently published a mystery, "Fear at Phantom Ship Lake."


Posted by joanna, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 10, 2012 at 10:31 am

Dear Ms. Krenz,

Thank you for your lovely story. In this "i"generation. it's so refreshing to be reminded every so often about the truly important things in life, and that the quality of our relationships and social interactions are what make life beautiful.

Joanna W.