In honor of all Mothers on this Mother’s Day, but especially my mom, Lillian, for whom work was love, and whose work was always connected to The Great Work of the Universe; to Lillian, whose work began on February 23rd, 1930, and whose work was complete on February 5th 1999 at 6:45 p.m. – Thank you, Mom. We love you .
As I opened the kitchen door from the garage, the smell of Khouresh—an Assyrian beef stew—filled the air. I rounded the corner, and there was my mom, standing over pots and pans on the stove and tending to the rice pilaf in the oven. My mouth started watering. I walked over, gave my mom a kiss, and turned to face the four guys standing behind me.
“Mom, meet the Army paratrooper team. Team, meet my mom.”
My dad, sister, and I had just returned from Castle Air Force Base where there was a twice-yearly air show. My sister thought these soldiers deserved a home-cooked meal, which, of course, they did.
This would have freaked most moms out. Given our ethnic background though (Armenian and Assyrian, and as I recently discovered through Ancestry.com, Italian and Greek), there was always plenty of food. “Portions” did not exist in our home. Pots, kettles, roasters—those were the ways we measured quantities of food. For my mom, four extra mouths for dinner was a walk in the park.
The guys all greeted my mom, and without missing a beat she said, “Now I’m feeding them from the sky. Boys, the bathroom is straight ahead. Wash up and have a glass of wine. Dinner is in an hour.”
I remember that every detail was attended to, and that those soldiers were shown the same kindness that we would have given to family members. Not just because they were soldiers, but because they were guests in our home.
Laughter, conversation, and wine flowed as everyone relaxed into being part of our family for the night. As we sat down for dinner, my mom stood up, raised a glass of wine, looked around the table at these former strangers who were now guests in our home, and said, “You are all welcome here.” It was something that she said every time there were visitors, and I maintain that tradition to this day.
That experience was over 30 years ago, and I remember it like it was yesterday. Something clicked for me in that moment. Hospitality. Treating the stranger like a friend. Welcoming those previously unknown into your home. Unconditional acceptance. Sharing food and drink. Loving people you have never met. These were the hallmark attributes of my mom’s life; the qualities that people could count on when spending time with her.
Extraordinary hospitality was her personal brand. Her promise. And she delivered the promise of her brand every time. Anyone that walked through our doors, or in this case, dropped in from the skies, was welcome. There would be wine and food and always more than enough. There was a reason we had three refrigerators and a full-size, deep freeze: never would anyone be told “we’re out of food.”
“You are all welcome here.”