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Cookie Sheet Solutions




My mother would be 90 today. I’d like to think she would still be spry and elegant, but I recognize the possibility that she could have become infirm, confused, and unsteady by this age, too.

I washed her 2000 Acura carefully to mark the day, since there can’t be any birthday lunch, dinner, or cake. Later I might put in the CD of the Telemann piece she liked so much and take a ride to the beach. My mother bought this car when she was 78 – no sensible Camry or sturdy Buick for her. She had me ship it to California from New Jersey when illness forced her to move here, although she never drove it again. It would have been easier and more economical to sell it in New Jersey at the time, but I understood her need to have it here – it represented the hope that she would get well and learn to zip around the LA Freeways much as she had barreled up and down the NJ Turnpike.

This car was a luxury, bought brand-new and paid for in full. My mother made do with dubious cars for a long time when the family economy was rocky, driving a ’67 VW bug when she was well into her 50s, taking an occasional perverse pleasure in flooring it on her way home from work on Route 18, nudging the speedometer past 95. When the bottom rusted out after many harsh East Coast winters, she nailed a cookie sheet over the holes and drove it another 30,000 miles. Last week when Michelle Obama talked about her early rides in Barack’s rusty car, I could hear my mother pronouncing that a cookie sheet would have easily taken care of the problem.

My 16-year-old son alternates between sniffing that it is “embarrassing” to be seen in this car and claiming that he wants to lower it, soup it up with rims, and career around in it much like the young Asian-American men in Westminster and Gardena who seem to favor turning these Acuras into hotrods.

I’ve told him that he can’t have it unless he pays me darn good money for it. Although my mother sold it to me for $1 not long before she died, if she were here today I imagine she’d order me to give it to him, and she’d probably float Christopher the money to trick it out – she was that kind of doting grandmother.

I can’t give my mother a 90th birthday present today, but I’m thinking about her many gifts to me, not the least of which is a certain practicality and resourcefulness. Regal as she was, she also had that nail-a-cookie-sheet-over-it-and-get-on-with-it side, too. I’ve been lucky enough to make good use of that ability to patch up all kinds of things.




About treacycolbert

I make my living by writing about health care. I've always written about life's chastening effect, but just as a way of sorting it out for myself. After years of doing this and keeping these essays quiet, I decided to put some of these impressions out there on this blog. Thanks for reading, and let me know what you think.

10 responses »

  1. This is such an exquisite piece, Treacy. Your mother would be so proud of you. I was deeply touched, and reminded that I must cherish each and every moment I have with my mum. Thank you so much. As I wipe the tears away, I send a little hello up to your Mom! xo

    • cm, I love that our mothers “knew” each other through the sweet notes and Godiva chocolates your mom sent to her, although they never met. They would have liked each other in person, but their mail friendship was also a blessing.

  2. Happy Birthday to your Mom! She was such a classy, smart woman It’s nice you have something that she valued so much both for the freedom it provided and the luxury she finally gave herself. You remembering your Mom makes me remember mine too. ThanksI

  3. Colbert,
    If your Mom was here today we’d be sitting in the backyard quaffing a few celebratory brews or a nice chilled Chardonnay. Just like we used to. I miss her also.

  4. What a wonderful tribute to your mom, Treacy. I think you have definitely inherited her “just nail a cookie sheet over it” attitude. I know she is smiling down on you!

  5. LOVE IT! And amen to mail friendships!!!!

    • The generation coming after ours won’t have those mail friendships, unfortunately. A letter is already a quaint artifact. I miss them! Remember when getting a letter could make your whole day? Makes me want to sit down and write one today. Love to you, JHA.


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