Mother had a penchant for anyone or anything that was foreign. Abby and I aren’t quite sure where this quirk came from but she exhibited it throughout her lifetime. When we lived in the post-war converted Army Barracks, while Dad was attending the University of Chicago, she was drawn to anyone or anything foreign.
She became entranced with Jewish people and began emulating their way of life, especially when it came to food. She would go on and on about their bread until Abby and I would wonder if it was made from some very rare or special ingredients. She also became enamored with a couple from Scandinavia. They had two children named Tuna and Ulla. Abby and I played with them and that is where we learned about fjords.
Our lives were intertwined with rich experiences because of our dad’s attendance at the University of Chicago, and in another way, by our mother’s affinity for the foreign and exotic. Mother loved showing off her new-found wisdom and let it be known that she traveled in “international circles.” By associating and befriending complete strangers who just happened to be from other countries, she believed herself to be a world-wide traveler. She was nothing if not a snob about our lives there.
She once got to know a young couple from Ireland. Suddenly, despite the fact that she had no Irish blood in her lineage, every St. Patrick’s Day Mother made corned beef and cabbage. She discussed in great detail special foods she had while living in Chicago and wished she could taste the special treats again. She loved onion bagels and always said she never had a better bagel than the ones in Chicago. She searched for “Amish food” in Iowa and was greatly disappointed to find out their food is very similar to the food she normally ate.
Mother was a unique individual, especially when it came to discussing food. She once traveled through Oklahoma, and decades later she still lamented the fact she would never return to Oklahoma City for the “best onion rings” she ever tasted. California, in her mind, had the best fresh fruit anywhere. Indiana had the best melons, and Iowa for her was basically a wasteland when it came to special food.
While living at the retirement home, she would discuss her travels, her experiences and display her “I am just a little bit better than you” attitude. Often she would accuse Abby and me of being snobs, when actually Mother’s tales that she spun were demonstrating her superiority complex to her audience. I’m surprised she wasn’t cast in the role of the Church Lady on “Saturday Night Live”. Time for the Superior Dance!