I’d like to tell you a little bit about my mother.
Sally Rhoden, nee Sally Brown, was born and raised in Monroe, GA. Her mother (my Mimi) was a schoolteacher and a homemaker, and her father, (Granddaddy) was a farmer and a county agriculture and soil agent.
Mom got out of Monroe ASAP.
She went to school at Florida State, receiving degrees in Recreational Therapy and Mental Retardation (probably not a major anymore, I’m guessing…) and went on to create summer camps and group homes for folks with disabilities.
She met my dad, James Lloyd Rhoden, Jr., in Tallahassee, where he was born and raised. (I think I would need to start a whole new blog to begin describing my dad, so I’ll save that for another day).
They got married, moved to Atlanta, and proceeded to make babies. Fast. Ms. Sally had three children in three years, because, she says, she just wanted to get all that baby-making out of the way early. So growing up, it was less like having 2 older brothers and more like being the runt of a small but aggressive litter.
But Sally dealt with the chaos gracefully- I have mostly idyllic memories of my childhood, full of lots of outdoor time, lots of special celebrations, and LOTS of cooking and baking.
Sally is the woman responsible for my love of cooking. While my mom doesn’t think of herself as a “domestic goddess,” she managed our household, her career as a non-profit administrator, and her social life in such a way that she met the mostly unspoken and highly stringent standards of Southern Ladyhood (in word, my mom laughs off the outdated expectations of women of her generation, but in deed, she lives up to them). I was expected to share the load- so cooking, cleaning and baking were a part of my life from early on.
Like her mother and grandmother before her, Sally always presented elaborate meals and plentiful desserts, especially for holidays and birthdays. (unlike her mother and grandmother before her, though, Sally’s elaborate meals involved a microwave, a dishwasher, and the occasional boxed cake mix, but who can blame her? She had a lot going on). Ultimately, my mom is the reason that I know that food is one of the deepest ways of showing your love to your family, and it is why I have created a livelihood out of the desire to make celebrations more meaningful by creating beautiful, simple cakes.
Now Sally is a Mimi (she has four grandsons and twin grandbabies- a boy and a girl- on the way). She and Jasper are thick as thieves. She is sad that we live so far from Atlanta (since the entirety of the rest of my family all live in the same zip code, Asheville is a long way away), and she is often wishing that she could “help” me more… the cooking, cleaning, and child care stuff that Mimis do. (she does alot of that already, but wants to help more.)
Last weekend we were in Atlanta for a visit, and I discovered that my mom had decided that there WAS something that she could do to help me with my growing business and family. She spent weeks cooking meals, and carefully packed them up into tupperwares. When I left Atlanta on Tuesday, I went home with a HUGE cooler full of frozen food- casseroles, chili, soups, green beans, mashed potatoes, ribs, brownies, and much more. She filled our freezer full of weeks’ worth of meals, so that, even though our lives are busy and chaotic right now, we could eat well and be nourished by home cookin’. That was a pretty hard-core awesome-mom thing to do. Sally rocks.
Don’t get me wrong- me and Sally have our moments. I do get frustrated with her from time to time. But who said that just because she’s my mom, she’s supposed to be perfect? I know Jasper will probably have a thing or two to say about me eventually, and I hope that he remembers that I’m a real person, too. The real reason I get frustrated at my mom is that I, like all daughters and sons, often think of my mother only in relation to myself, forgetting that she is her own whole person in the world. I realized this as I was trying to tell some of her biography earlier in this post- the details of who she was before becoming my mom, and other than being my mom, are sort of fuzzy. Almost as if all the other things that Sally Rhoden is and does are just the soft-focus background to the real Sally- MY MOM! We all do this- we all, deep down, just want our mommies. And even though I’m a grown-up and a mother myself now, from time to time, I want my mommy too! And, lucky for me, she’s right there for me when I need her.

Here’s to you, Mom. Happy Mother’s Day, and thanks for all the food, the love, and the excellent home training. It’s coming in real handy…

My mom and me on my 3rd birthday:

And on my wedding day: