It seems like yesterday we were sitting in the breakfast room talking about our day. Mom, sitting there wearing her Thomas Jefferson half glasses working her crossword puzzle, her big glass of ice water she had by her side always and the inevitable dessert plate with a piece of Lily Mae Hill’s butterscotch pie.
She was funny – so funny we might laugh until we cried. Her stories about growing up with her grandparents near Gonzales were priceless. All her stories were priceless – and the ones with my Daddy were the best! She was an organic gardener and chef extraordinaire before her time. The kitchen was the center of the house in town and in the country – there was always pie, cake and cookies. Cooking and caring for others was a way of expressing ourselves. We studied cooking across the world from classes with Nancy Moorman in San Antonio to Marcella Hazan in Venice. My sister Sissy, Mom and I would make preserves every summer in the country. And we would cook and cook with vegetables grown in our own gardens like corn, black eyed peas, limas, snap, okra, green onions, potatoes and the best tomatoes you could ever imagine. The meat was butchered from our own cattle, goats, lamb and pigs. We collected eggs from our own chicken houses. At the ranch, we would serve huge groups of people at our dining table which seated 24! The table was always a site to behold – creativity was definitely her forte. Yes, my Mom was Martha Stewart before anyone ever knew about Martha Stewart.
And there was the beautiful library, where we needle pointed for hours on end together. She was usually working on fine detailed stitches designed on canvases painted at the Royal School of needlework in London. She created hundreds of pieces she gave away to family and friends or adorned our house with. She needle pointed the Bishop’s Chair at St. Marks’ Episcopal Church in San Antonio.
A voracious reader – she read about anything and everything from history to romantic novels. She knew about everything and I guarantee you, what she didn’t know – she would learn in a flash, even overnight. A more knowledgeable and interested woman I have yet to meet. Antiquities, fashion, decorating, landscaping, history, culture, politics – she dove into and mastered all of it. Coco and Jackie had nothing on her. She and Daddy were fascinating, as were the people around them.
She volunteered her time and contributed her money to countless charities across the globe. She and my father took Sissy, Skip (my brother) and me to Europe for the first time when I was 7 years old. I still see, smell and hear it all. It was amazing! Then Asia at 9….and many trips around the world later I can say that I appreciate all the things I saw learned with my mother and father. My education was as much through fabulous trips as it was through institutions.
So today, this week, forever…. I must thank my Mom, Mary Austin Perry Beretta, for giving me the rich memories I have – encouraging me to question, to learn, to dream, to create, to be respectful, to be observant, to be resilient, to be inquisitive and to laugh out loud. And for introducing me to the interesting people I met and the events I attended across the globe. I lost my Mom in 1989, but she is sitting right here beside me every day J