Friday, May 9, 2008

Mother's Day...

I’ve been “on the road” again…this time, a two-day planning meeting in Baltimore for vocation directors in this region. I am back at Bristow for the entire weekend – YIPPEE! More on the weekend goings-on here on Monday…

I am continually surprised by how many people are reading this blog. Every now and then, I wonder if it continues to serve a purpose or meet a need. Then, out of nowhere, someone will write, call or e-mail and ask me about something I’ve written. It always amazes me. Recently, a “reader” asked about my mother. “Why don’t you ever write about your mom, Sister Vicki? You write about your Dad quite a bit, but very little about your mom.” I’ve been thinking about that question…seriously. The answer is probably a bit complicated. For now, in honor of “Mother’s Day,” I want to tell you a little bit more about Cynthia Hubner Ix – certainly more than a gravestone can tell. [b.October 31, 1934 & d. July 15, 1990]

All we ever know about our mothers is what they reveal in loving us – in raising us and nurturing us. It takes decades before we can see our own mother as a real person with hopes, dreams, disappointments and her own particular tragic flaws. It requires self-awareness of our own frailties and a huge measure of compassion to allow our mothers the simple grace of just being human. I offer a few simple thoughts about my Mother with gratitude and love:

All my mother ever wanted to be was a mother. It was her crowning glory and greatest joy.
We were spoiled with her time and her love. She taught me to play and loved every minute of it. I can still remember dancing and singing in our living room…to an album called, “Up With People.” My Mother was beautiful – like a movie star – a little Audrey Hepburn and Liz Taylormixed together, (I thought.) (I also have an Aunt I swear looked just like Judy Garland.)
My Mother could converse effortlessly with strangers. She lit up a room and had a marvelous sense of humor. My Mother loved my Father – from the start and even after their divorce. My Mother was a frustrated architect or interior designer. When she couldn’t sleep at night, she’d design a home in her head. She hated to cook and, as a consequence, nurtured my love for it with glee. We had a deal. I cooked. My Mother cleaned up. She thought she had the better end of the deal.

My Mother survived two breast cancers in the ‘70’s. The second one almost killed her. She lived 15 more years until the brain tumor that took her life. My Mother understands everything in heaven – all the things about me that weren’t exactly what she ordered – and I can feel her unconditional love and pride. I suspect she brags about her children and grandchildren in heaven. “My daughter is a Benedictine sister. Did you know that the oldest order in the Roman Catholic Church?” My Mother visits me from time to time. Sometimes it’s a song, or a smell or a memory – and she’s there – somehow, really, mysteriously present. I tell her I love her and I know she knows the fullness of love now – in glory.

It’s been almost eighteen years since we were separated by death. Funny, but I feel closer to my Mom than ever. And, my admiration and love for that funny, beautiful, clever, gracious lady continues to grow. Her journey, her story has become sacred to me. One day when we sit beside each other again, I’ll ask her a few questions and tell her a few secrets. And we will dance again…to those old folksongs…swinging our arms and twirling together…bare toes on the carpet. And this time the song will never end.

Blessings and love to you all...especially to all the mothers!

- Sister Vicki

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

"Southland in the Springtime"...

The only “band” I’d still pay money to see is THE INDIGO GIRLS. I discovered their music in 1990 and I’ve been a faithful listener ever since. When I was still a pathetic grad student in Minnesota [1999-2002], one of their songs spoke to my heart of my new home in Virginia – “Southland in the Springtime.” Sister Cecilia described spring in the Commonwealth. It seemed too magical to be real – Red Bud, Flowering Pear and Cherry Blossoms. When I finally made a visit to Bristow one spring, the legend became reality.

“Now there’s something ‘bout the southland in the springtime -
where the waters flow with confidence and reason.
Though miss her when I’m gone, it won’t ever be too long
‘til I’m home again to spend my favorite season.
When God made me born a Yankee He was teasin’.
There’s no place like home and none more pleasin’,
than the southland in the springtime.”

I took a walk on Monday morning. Here’s some of our southland in the springtime.

Blessings and love to you all…
- Sister Vicki

Monday, May 5, 2008

Richmond convent celebrates with SGHS...

From 1989-1990 I attended The New York Restaurant School in Manhattan. I was intent, at the time, on opening a small restaurant with my Mother as my partner. My Mom died just before my graduation from culinary school so my plans changed – instantly. I found a job as a sous chef in a small, “New American” restaurant back home in New Jersey. I learned more from the CIA-trained chef there than I did in cooking school. It was a hard period of my life – working crazy hours and doing the work of grieving at the same time. But I will be forever grateful for that job. When I left there I knew that I NEVER, EVER wanted to be in the restaurant business again.

I started cooking when I was nine years old. My Mom was less nervous with me than she was with my big sister. When I expressed an interest in the stove, my Mom handed me the “Bisquick” box and the spatula, and the rest is history. From that moment cooking became a way of loving people. Making animal-shaped pancakes for my little sister became elaborate five-course dinners for friends in my 30’s. The evolution of the place of cooking in my life seemed obvious. But when something you love becomes “a job” it can suck the joy right out of it. Perhaps, there was more to it than that for me. It was complicated by the dream I had of restaurant of my own – a dream that had so much to do with my mother.

On Friday afternoon thirty faculty and staff from Saint Gertrude High School came to the convent in Richmond for an “Open House” in honor of our 140th anniversary. We rented tables and chairs for the backyard…white table linens and lots of flowers. It was a perfect day to eat al fresco. I prepared ten different Italian appetizers – the result of much tasting and reading in Rome. Everything turned out pretty well, if I do say so myself. (I am slightly embarrassed by how much I love my own cooking.) More importantly, I think our faculty and staff felt LOVED. I think our efforts at hospitality genuinely touched their hearts. That makes me very happy. How wonderful GOD is… Who knew that as a Benedictine sister, I could still make a gourmet feast every now and then? The day after the party, my back ached, and I was burned in at least three places. And, I was happy. I put out a ton of food in our small kitchen. It was, for just a few hours, like having my very own restaurant. I could almost feel my Mother smiling…