The Birminghamster
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by Mrs. Lowe


Yesterday I bought a new phone with lots of features, one of which is a digital answering machine. Now you can literally spend a whole semester of your life programming the thing to do your bidding but for those who are technologically challenged (or just lazy) there is a digitally produced man's voice announcing that no one is available to take your call and would you please leave a message.

Most people could take this in stride. Not my Mother. Oh no. She is convinced that I have a boyfriend. My son told her that's what had happened after she called the first time and asked who that man was that answered my phone. Her favorite expression when told almost anything but non failing when faced with something unusual is "You're kidding!" He told her "No, it's true" and she just went silent. Now she has called twelve times in the last hour -- (this is according to Caller ID) but won't leave a message. She just listens to "him" and waits for "him" say something else I guess.

I wonder what she thinks he might say. Does she believe that if she stays on the line awhile she will hear heavy breathing? I just wish I could have him say something like I was currently nude and unavailable. Believe me, it is going to take her some time to figure this one out.

It will keep her mind off her car keys for a while anyway. I am currently on her s-list because I had the audacity to call the Buick dealer and tell them not to make another set of keys. They squealed on me and told her I had called after she pitched a throw down on the phone when they wouldn't bring them out to her. (Remember, in a previous issue I told you we had pulled her keys)

Her eye doctor told her and my brother that under no circumstances was she ever to drive again. She has no reflexes, can't hear, can't see and is totally out of it most of the time. ( In Kathleen's World everything is OK if she thinks it is) Her favorite time to go to Food World is at dark thirty in the midst of rush hour traffic on Valleydale Road. I am giving you fair warning. You had better stay away from there. She might learn how to hot wire that Buick somehow and if she does, she'll be gone.

We never know what she'll do next. She watches CNN all day but can't tell you at dinner what happened. She called my brother in the middle of an important business meeting to tell him that "That old man has come out of his cage now and Bush is sending all the troops home." I assume she meant Bin Laden and the caves of Afghanistan. You have to be on your toes to keep up with her. We have learned to just say "Uh Huh, that's right" and in a few minutes it's a different world.

But you know what? I wouldn't take a million dollars for her and my brother and I take good care of her (otherwise, we would just give her one of the seven sets of keys she has for her car and turn her loose) She is, and always has been, quite an unforgettable character. She epitomizes Southern Womanhood of her generation. She grew up poor and struggled in her young adulthood but she is and always has been a great lady. You would never know she's had anything but the most genteel life. And boy, howdy, could she ever cook in her day!

We sure do miss those times even though I have stepped in to fill the culinary gap. On Sunday's she always cooked a roast beef, green beans, mashed potatoes and made a Lemon Ice Box Pie. Without fail. It was a status symbol to have roast beef once a week. Here is my adaptation of her original.


For four to six people, you will need a two to three pound sirloin tip roast. I buy several at a time and freeze them when they are on sale. There is actually not a recipe for this. You just sear the roast in a little olive oil on all sides, then cover with a package of dried onion soup mix. Add about a cup of water, cover and simmer on top of your stove for two to three hours. This makes its own au jus. Sometimes I add a couple of spoons of flour or corn starch mixed with water to make a thicker gravy, adding more water if needed. You cannot fail with this method as long as you buy a good cut of meat and cook it slowly.

Try it sometime. You may start your own tradition. At the very least, your grandparents will be impressed. A status symbol, you know.


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