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Carpe Diem, Mom

Impromptu, simple celebrations set an entertaining standard

Illustration by Anna Godeassi

My mother, whom I firmly believe invented staycations to save herself the extended stress and unique exhaustion of traveling with five children (and a rooster, a chipmunk and two dogs), had the ability to make the everyday feel magical. Part and parcel of that superpower was her skill for impromptu entertaining.

I think Mom’s way with last-minute meals and celebratory mood changers was honed while constantly responding to the needs of her squad of kids and a husband whom the U.S. Air Force had on call. Any day that work and school and flight schedules allowed all seven of us to be at the table, she’d whip up a loaves-and-fishes miracle from whatever she had on hand. Candles were always lighted just because. And even backyard picnics were graced with flowers in Mason jars, decades before that sort of practical elegance was trendy.

Her can-do spirit focused on honoring our family’s together time whenever possible with whatever was on hand.

Holiday events were executed with equal ease. Christmas Eve dinner might be waffles and eggnog. On New Year’s Eve we’d dance in the backyard under the stars. A maraschino cherry in anything from ginger ale to iced tea heralded a toast.

Mom’s recipe for pig pie, a foraged blackberry cobbler topped with shortbread in the shapes of piglets, welcomed summer into our house. And her compulsive seasonal collections of seashells, pine cones and dried flowers worked their way into the decor that celebrated holidays and birthday bashes.

There was a do-it-yourself eccentricity to my mother’s carpe diem spirit, and I see pale imitations of it now in trends from factory chic to urban farmhouse.

I am thinking the world is filled with similarly celebratory traditions conceived by mothers. Moms, grandmothers and aunties who casually influence a family’s style of entertaining only to witness their rituals and recipes take root in the next generation. Which isn’t to say fathers, granddads and uncles never set a mood—or a table—but, in my circle, the male influences were more pragmatic than emotional.

When I write stories about people’s homes, how they live in them, what they collect, I sometimes find that they own furniture made by a family patriarch. But the mismatched heirloom platters of food that parade across that table or buffet most often showcase the collections and tastes of a mom or a sister.

So, I’d just like to give my mother a shoutout for teaching me to celebrate any and every event. More importantly, she taught me that rather than merely holding onto things I find meaningful, I should pass them along and make the sharing the special occasion.


Babs Rodriguez is editorial director of 360 West, a Fort Worth lifestyle magazine.