The More Things Change

August 3, 2012 | 20 comments

Dad was waiting for us on the back step when we pulled into the driveway, like his own father always did.

We open the doors of the Acadia, swollen with fast-food sacks and flip-flops — all of it a grand accumulation that comes with six hours in the car.

The girls skip toward their “Bop,” four arms tangling around his waist. Dad plops a kiss on my cheek, and I drag a suitcase across the threshold. The screen door bangs against the door frame behind me, And Mom is standing at her post by the kitchen sink, with a phone to her ear, congratulating a nephew who got a new job.

The kitchen sink —

It’s always been half full of warm sudsy water; she’s never had a dishwasher. And the whole kitchen smells like Palmolive.

This isn’t the home where I grew up, but it’s home now, this little cabin on a serene lake in Minnesota, where blue gill are bold enough to bite bare hooks.

I put an arm around Mom’s shoulder, and give her a squeeze. I can already taste her homemade potato salad, and hope secretly that she made it again.

She pulls the lid off the Tupperware for lunch, and behold: Potato salad.

Fork raised, she tells us that someone suggested she use Miracle Whip instead of regular Mayo in the potato-salad dressing, but I interrupt her mid-sentence, my taste-buds already protesting. “Don’t change a thing. Yours is the best potato salad ever, Mom.”

We pile ham-salad onto whole wheat — Granny T’s recipe. Our sun-tea glasses sweat on that one oval pine. The girls eat outside, in swim suits. And after lunch, Mom and I stand hip-to-hip at the sink, washing and drying and catching up. And we’ve done this so many times, that it’s all running together, memories fluid and sliding on top of one another.

I look at our hands in the sink, how they’re alike. And I think it then: how blessed we are to have this one simple moment by an open kitchen window. I think of Mom’s fight with cancer, and Dad’s heart bypass surgery. I think of all those fluid memories that have slid around and over the years since radiation and ICU. And how scared we all were.

This is a gift, this day that begins here in a place with no dishwasher, where children stuff buttery blooms into tiny vases, and where Mom plays Gaither on the keyboard. And at night, we’ll get drowsy by the glow of the TV, watching the Olympics together. My youngest daughter will bridge across my lap, wanting me to scratch her back. I remember how I did the same thing with Dad the year Nadia Comăneci won the gold. We watched it on a Zenith console back then.

So much has changed, but I listen now at the comforting sameness of this life. The phone rings. It’s a wrong number, but before five minutes is up, Mom has gathered up all bits of information about the caller. Her name is Maria, and Mom sings to her. I hear them laughing. And this has been the soundtrack of my life — phones ringing, exaggerated vibrato, the sound of glasses and silverware clinking in the sink.

We’ll sleep here again tonight, where loons cry out in the pitch, and yes, things have changed. That’s not all bad, I tell you. But I’ll thank the Good Lord for the sameness of life, too —

like soap suds in a sink,
a woman who calls herself Mama D,
the smell of bacon frying in the morning,
and the same potato salad on my plate.

by | August 3, 2012 | 20 comments


  1. Kathy

    Sigh….I can see the scene and it is beautiful 🙂

  2. Nancy

    Love this! Love Mama D! YOU have been blessed with so much, Jennifer! 🙂

  3. Jillie

    Good morning Jennifer. What a beautiful post…music to my ears. Change is good, but oh, thank God for the wonderful, coveted things that remain the same throughout the years. Like Dads and Mama D.s!
    (Your buttercups are different than our Canadian variety.)

  4. Cheryl Smith

    I agree with you completely. Mayo, not Miracle Whip. So glad you are enjoying time with your folks. What a blessing!

  5. laura

    Oh, thank you for this bit of sweetness slipped into my day, Jennifer. I am visiting some of my favorite people, trying to catch up. I love catching up with you, friend. Just love it.

  6. Elizabeth, wynnegraceappears

    Such tender memories bubbling up for you, oh I know your heart is savoring and soaking in it all. Every piece of every moment. May you be filled to overflowing with the love and memories of family. Thanks for writing this, its just gentle beauty.Happy Weekend, friend.

  7. Linda

    Perfect Jennifer. I am Grandma now, but I am little girl the minute I cross the threshold into my parents’ home. And then yesterday, we turned the corner onto our little street and my youngest granddaughter said, “I love coming here. I love how big and quiet it all is.”
    And so it goes…we pass down the most precious of gifts.

  8. Lyla Lindquist

    It always makes me smile to think of you in the northern lakes.

    Have some of those unchanging memories from times with my grandparents in tbose parts. Enjoy. 🙂

  9. Deidra

    I can smell the Palmolive. Do you remember Madge?

    I have tried and tried to make potato salad. No luck. No talent.

  10. Sharon O

    So beautiful… so warm and full of memories and sweetness, I love the family ‘scene’.

  11. Sandra Heska King

    I could hear that screen door slam. Smell the water. Hear the loon. I need to get me to a lake cabin real soon.

    (And I could hear sweet voices and laughter and song. And marvel that we see the same moon wherever we are.)

  12. Leah Adams

    Enjoy your time with your parents. i miss my Daddy so. He’s been with Jesus almost 8 years now. I love the beauty and simplicity of this post. Thank you.

  13. Kristi Lloyd

    Your post put me right there with you…and lovin every minute of it! Oh and Mama D…don’t switch to Miracle Whip (mayo is my mom’s handed down from generation to generation potato salad repipe too! Yummmm!)

    • Kristi Lloyd

      oops…correction…”recipe” – I got so excited thinking about it I guess 🙂

  14. Nancy Kourmoulis

    My kids agree, grandma’s (my mom’s) potato salad is better than mine. I like that children and grandchildren all over agree that their mama’s potato salad is the best. They are all right because it is made by loving hands.

  15. De

    Oh, how true that the more things change the more we relish the anchor points in our life that mesh memories past with those in the making.

  16. floyd

    A wonderful depiction of the true treasures of life. As we see the change in our parents and our own soul cages, we’re reminded that this flesh is temporary… and so is the heartbreak of this life.

    I can’t tell you how much I always appreciated the way my dad called me “Son.” I can still hear it in my mind… Change is inevitable and is the reality of life.

    God bless you and yours.

  17. Dolly@Soulstops

    what a tender scene you paint with your parents, and your kids…so sweet 🙂 Blessings, Jennifer 🙂

  18. Julie

    Oh, Jennifer, thank you for this post — causing me to cherish the sameness of those I love, even though our family is in the midst of huge change.

    I pray I can see the types of things you saw and know they are good.


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