My youngest son, Peter, signed up for cooking class in junior high school when it first opened up to boys and shop classes opened to girls. Never one to be comfortable sitting in a desk for long, he was thrilled with the activity of the class – as well as the eating opportunity.
At the end of the second week of class, he rushed home, recipe in hand, and proceeded to repeat the class assignment in our kitchen.
I returned home from teaching math all day to find muffins still warm from the oven. In later days came corn bread and biscuits.
At the time, Pete's grandmother lived with us, and the two of them began cooking together. She, not wanting to dampen his enthusiasm, artfully taught him how to clean up as they cooked, as well as how not to make such a mess to start with.
Nana came from a rich heritage of travel and living abroad, with an abundant talent for good cooking and the love it required and expressed to the family. Her many years of cooking instinctively without recipes or measurements were challenged by his note taking and taste testing. There was always laughter in the kitchen.
After Nana died, Pete began cooking one entire meal each week. As I became involved in graduate classes and a part-time job in addition to my regular teaching, his culinary ventures increased to twice a week – and sometimes more.
The family's favorites were smothered burritos with salad, well-seasoned meatloaf and baked potatoes, omelets, cream of broccoli soup, pizza with French bread crust, spinach pie, chili, and cookies.
Peter would accompany me to the grocery store on Saturday mornings with his list of ingredients needed for the week, although the produce man frowned on his skilled juggling of the oranges.
Finally, as Mother's Day approached one year, his older brother, David, and I decided that Pete had earned the Mother's Day accolades for the year. So we bought him a Mother's Day card and a gizmo for his bicycle.
When that special Sunday in May arrived, we served him breakfast in bed. He was puzzled at first, then highly amused, and later just a little proud. It was a fun occasion as we all ended up enjoying breakfast on Pete's bed.
"But don't you dare tell my buddies that I was Mother of the Year in this family," he sternly warned us.
We never let it slip – until now, almost 30 years later.