Column written by Lisa Gibalerio
My mother was not what you’d call a “high talker.” Although such reserve is not a common trait, I believe she actually preferred listening to talking. And while she seldom dispensed advice, I can still recall the few tidbits of wisdom she did pass on to me. I thought I’d share several of them with you now.
(Stick with me and at the end you’ll get her recommendation for how to make an amazing apple pie.)
One piece of advice I got from my mother – which she fortunately passed on to me early in life – pertained to drinking. Liquor, that is. This particular piece of wisdom she imparted to me after I had had a little too much to drink following the death of my best friend’s father. My friend and I were both 19; her father was 51. As I sat at the kitchen table the next morning with an aching head and a nauseated stomach, my mother asked me what had prompted me to over-drink. I told her I was upset about the untimely death of Suzanne’s father. I explained that Suzanne’s grief was going to be an excruciating burden to bear and that the whole idea of parents’ dying was more than most 19-year olds could handle.
She took a deep breath and said, “I understand all that, but here’s the thing – getting drunk never helps. Life is filled with scary, stressful, and sad times. People get fired, relationships go through rough spots, and money is sometimes frighteningly scarce. After over-drinking, you wake up in the morning feeling lousy like you are now, and guess what? The problem you drank about is still there. Drinking solves nothing and changes nothing. Suzanne’s father is still dead. Only now, you get to go to his funeral with a hangover.”
Would you believe me if I told you I never over drank again because something awful was happening in my life? It’s the truth.
Another piece of advice that has stuck with me pertains to spending money. She and my father were fairly conservative about spending money. They had to be, so they were. They both taught me valuable lessons about saving for a rainy day, and about using a credit card only to buy things that could be paid off when the bill came in. In short, I was taught to live within my means.
That said, my mother also encouraged me to splurge occasionally.
The year I moved to Boston was a challenging one for me fiscally. Like most 23-year-olds, I was struggling to pay rent, utilities, a car loan, and a college loan while trying to figure out how to finance graduate school. My mom and dad had come up to visit me and I took them into Boston to shop and see some sights. At some point, we wandered into a shop and I fell in love with an elegant and sparkly choker. It was dazzling and when I slipped it around my neck, it made me feel regal.
My mom whispered to me that she would help me buy the choker.
“Every so often,” she confided, “you need to splurge, you need to treat yourself to something special. It’s important to do. And wearing this choker will bring you happiness.”
The last piece of advice I’ll recount for you pertains to her secret for a seasonal delight: apple pie.
Now, let me just say up front that my mother was not what anyone would call a gifted cook. To paraphrase author Bill Bryson’s comments on his own mother after she died: when she appeared at the pearly gates, no one in heaven breathed a sigh of relief, thinking “Oh, thank goodness she’s here, now we’ll finally get something decent to eat!” No, I’m fairly certain that did not happen in my mom’s case either. But she did excel in one area: she baked an apple pie that rocked.
Her secret? This one simple step: fill the pie with a wide variety of fresh apples. Choose some Courtland, some Macintosh, a few Gala, one Granny Smith and an Empire. She felt that the distinct flavors of the different kinds of apples would mix and mingle and bring out the best in each other. I have to say that, in my experience, it really does make a difference.
There’s more from my mom, of course. But these three things are what I’ll share for now: getting drunk solves nothing, live within your means but definitely splurge occasionally, and use a wide variety of apples for a delicious pie.
Now which of these is most important, I wonder?