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A Mother’s Day Treat Stirs Up Great Memories

by on May 15, 2018 5:00 AM

If you have ever heard me speak, or have read previous columns, you probably know how much I believe in having “The Attitude of Gratitude” or TAG for short. I use the metaphor of playing TAG to encourage others to reach out and touch someone important in their lives to say “thank you.” Unfortunately this is something most of us fall woefully short on accomplishing.

So this past Sunday was the annual celebration known as Mother’s Day and a chance to TAG all the moms out there that have made such a positive impact on so many. Yes, I realize that every day should be Mother’s Day. My wife reminds me often. But in reality children have already claimed that domain as their own.

Amazingly enough, there are actually killjoys out there that put down Mother’s Day as just another made-up holiday by card manufacturers and florists trying to make a buck. So what if it is? It is both appropriate and necessary to take time to honor and recognize mothers everywhere and the important roles they play. So take that, you Grinches.

In a Facebook post on Sunday, I did my best to express “The Attitude of Gratitude” for mothers: 

“Happy Mother’s Day to all moms, especially my mom, Angie, and my wife, Heidi, for all their love. My wife has me dutifully reading the Magnolia Journal, watching “Fixer Upper” and “Love It or List It” on HGTV, and learning to cook. OK, not really but at least this morning I did, for her. The moms in my life extend to friends’ moms from my youth who helped guide me while growing up, moms of my own kids’ friends, and the moms of players I have coached. Thanks to all of you for doing one of the toughest, but most rewarding roles in life. Celebrate today!”

My wife really looks forward to her annual Mother’s Day breakfast in bed. While I will never be confused with Jamie Oliver or Bobby Flay, she hasn’t ended up in the hospital after eating one of my concoctions either. Although, we do give our guests fair warning with a sign in our kitchen that proudly proclaims, “Many have eaten here, few have died!”

This year I was thinking cheese and pepper omelet but she specifically requested an “Egg in a Nest,” perhaps figuring that even I couldn’t mess that up. A quick YouTube tutorial and I made her an Egg in the Nest omelet. Even surprised myself at how well it turned out. To put it in perspective, my idea of cooking for the kids when mom is away usually means boil-a-bag rice with two cans of tuna fish with soy sauce. Hey, don’t mock it until you try it. My kids actually make this “tuna and rice” meal themselves to this day.

What am I most famous for making in my house? Reservations. Or in this case, our daughter Brianna did, and we had a really nice meal cooked by the professional chef at Spats at the Grill (formerly the Allen Street Grill). The family enjoyed Seafood Nachos, Crab Bisque, Cedar Planked Salmon, Almond Crusted Chicken Breast, Surf and Turf, and more. All of which I am sure I could have whipped up in a jiffy if time were not a factor.  Yeah, right.

It was an especially nice weekend as I was able to spend Friday evening and part of Saturday with my mom back in Pittsburgh. Unfortunately for my family, I did not inherit her expertise in cooking as I take after my father, who in the words of my mother, “still can’t boil an egg!” My mother even made me my favorite dish, pastina soup with De Cecco acini di pepe, whole peeled plum tomatoes, butter, salt, Parmesan cheese, and my mother’s secret touch. I have tried numerous times to repeat this recipe and it never turns out as good as my mom’s.  Knowing that her baby was coming in to see her, she made her famous banana cream pie as well. My mom is an angel and I can never say thank you enough for her guidance, her love, and of course, her outstanding cooking.

In fact, I can’t ever say thanks enough to the moms in my life growing up. I was S-P-O-I-L-E-D. My grandmothers, “Big Grandma” Anna Battista and “Nana” Concetta Carolis, were so caring and loving and such great cooks that to this day, I rarely eat Italian food at restaurants as nothing compares to their homemade pasta and sauces. All my aunts -- Antoinette, Mary Lou, Rita Mae, Joanie, and Gerri -- were terrific moms and outstanding cooks in their own ways. I miss our big Italian family gatherings and wish my own kids had been able to experience the fun times my brother and I and all our cousins enjoyed.

Alas, the world has changed and the Battista and Carolis families are scattered throughout the country and tending to our own families. That was a special time and I will always have such fond memories.

Heidi’s family shared many of the same great memories and I was blessed to have been around her mom, Nellie Smith. My sisters-in-law. Karen and Terri, are amazing moms and great cooks in their own right as we still get together for many holiday meals and family celebrations.

While our families have enjoyed a great feast prepared by the moms in our lives, please don’t think that’s what makes each of them so special. It is but one part and if pressed for a single common trait among all the moms in our family, I would say it’s this: unconditional love. They provided the support, the guidance, and the occasional (or in my case, regular) discipline that was a necessary part of raising a family. They helped us through so many of life’s challenges and while we made our share of mistakes along the way, we are still so fortunate to have had their influences in our lives.

We baby boomers are caught between the traditions of the past and the realization that the world around us is changing, especially with technology. Personal interaction has changed and I am still not convinced it’s all been for the best. The one thing that I hope will never change is our ability to have unconditional love for others and to remember to say “thanks,” especially to our moms. 

It was the tradition of celebrating Mother’s Day that sparked the great memories of the past. No matter how often we say it or try to show it, it is never out of style to say, “Mom, I love you.”

Joe Battista has been an integral part of the Penn State and State College communities since 1978. He is best known for his effort to bring varsity ice hockey to Happy Valley and in the building of Pegula Ice Arena. “JoeBa” is the owner of PRAGMATIC Passion, LLC consulting, a professional speaker, success coach, and the vice president of the National Athletic and Professional Success Academy (NAPSA). He is the author of a new book, “The Power of Pragmatic Passion.” Joe lives in State College with his wife Heidi (PSU ’81 & ’83), daughter Brianna (PSU ’15), and son’s Jon (PSU ’16), and Ryan (State High Class of 2019).
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