My fantasies in the first month of my 33rd year aren’t about world travel, glamorous living, or fine dining. I’m daydreaming about having my mom come visit and nurse my family back to health.
“What would Mom do if she were here?” I texted my sister. She was in bed with laryngitis, from a bad cold kindly given to our entire family courtesy of my son’s first year of preschool. We’ve been through three illnesses in the first five weeks of school, each one worse than the last. My mom lives in California, and as much as she would love to, she cannot quit her life and move here for weeks on end to nurse us back to health.
“Make garlic bread,” she responds.
“She would. And she’d clean everything. And we could just lay around and recover.”
Instead, I’m the mom. I’m the last line of defense. My voice sounds so shaky on the phone my coworker asked if there had been a family tragedy. I’m managing pediatrician visits, medicine doses, and trying to force a feverish child to drink water. It’s just me and my husband, waking up at all hours of the night with two sick kids while being sick ourselves. It’s my busiest week at work in months, and my husband’s family, my usual babysitters, caught colds from us and my oldest son’s fever is too high to attend preschool for the fourth day in a row.
We’re in complete survival mode. The one thing that keeps us going is, unlike our spring illnesses, none of them have landed a child in the ER (thanks croup and RSV). And, of course, it’s not COVID.
I call my mom to detail my woes. “Did you make garlic bread?” she asks.
I find myself in complete Mom Mode. Medicine, TV on, washing, soothing. I feel like I’m reliving my childhood, except now I’m my mother, tending to her sick kids. I hope I’m as soothing to my son as my memories of my mom are. Gentle hands, soup, remedies. A comforting whirlwind around me as I lay on the couch and recover. In my DayQuil haze, I pictured us on two separate pages of a book pressed together, her caring for me and my sister on one page, me caring for my boys on the other, time overlapping between us to mere seconds apart, rather than 30 years. Her presence feels so close to me, we might as well be passing each other in the kitchen.
So I make garlic bread. The kids are skeptical of it. Their nostalgic childhood memory of comfort food is probably going to be applesauce pouches and Chick-fil-A sauce.
Fine. I eat half the loaf, my husband the other. It’s not as good as my mom’s, but it’s a start.
Health-Restoring Garlic Bread
One loaf French or Italian bread
One stick of salted butter, softened to room temperature
5-8 cloves of fresh garlic, depending on your love of garlic and desire for health restoration (“Use as many as you want.” –My mom’s precise measurements)
Place the unwrapped butter stick in a bowl. Mince the garlic, either using a press or by chopping. Add to butter, stir. Slice bread. You can go right down the middle, separating the top and bottom, or slice individually. (My mom slices individually.) Spread the garlic butter mixture over one side of each of the slices, place on a cookie sheet, butter side up.
With the oven rack about 6” from the top, broil the garlic bread on high until golden. You have to keep a close eye on it or it will burn. I usually forget about it after the second time I check on it and burn it a little — it adds to the charm.
Enjoy the restorative health powers of garlic. Also, the rule of garlic bread is that your whole family must eat it, because you all need to smell a little garlicky together.