Life Without Mom

In 2009, while I was still a “News Guy” at the local FOX affiliate in Savannah/Hilton Head, I wrote a blog about my mother. It was called “I’m Going Back for Mom.” I very simply told the story that while I had chosen to make Savannah my home and raise my daughter there, my work wasn’t done. My father passed away in the Spring of 2005 and as a result, life in Miami got increasingly difficult for my mom. Alone, really, without much family left.

I made the decision to move my mother to Savannah so she could be closer to her granddaughter and closer for me to keep an eye on as she aged. Making sure she had proper medical care and a comfortable home to live in. She took to downtown Savannah life like hand to a glove. Made a good many friends along the way.

Not long after that move, we created Eat It and Like It. My business partner Senea Crystal and I spent countless hours discussing, bickering and crafting what ultimately would become the brand behind Savannah and Hilton Head Island’s voice of food. That story has been told a million times. This not the beginning of a second million. I promise.

One of the ideas that Senea tossed on the table was having my mother close out our TV show every week. The original name of our new toy was “You’ll Eat It and Like It” which reminded everyone of their childhood, when choices for what to eat were limited.

Months later I had my mom record about 10 versions of a short track. “Eat It and Like It!” she yelled into a microphone. I asked her to use different inflections, I coached her on how to project her voice. It was pretty amusing and it was over in 15 minutes. I added it to the end of the show, our disco dance floor copyright tag and called it a day.  Never in a thousand lifetimes did I think I would treasure that day as much as I do until I lost my mom. She passed away on April 30th.

I debated for a long while about whether or not I would share this story. After all, my mother didn’t teach me how to cook. My mother didn’t teach me about food. My obsession with food, really, can be traced back to my sister. She loved to bake when I was a kid. Those were my first memories of fascination with the process of good food.

I don’t want to sound the least bit trite when I say this, but in the days since my mom’s passing, I’ve heard almost every cliche there is associated with the death of a loved one. Some are comforting, others not so much. The one I’ve heard most is “She will always be with you.”  It is true what they say, nothing really prepares you for that phone call. My dad passed away after a several year battle with liver disease. We watched him fade away. Mom was totally unexpected. That made it all different. For me at least.

There’s been a lot of reflection lately. Of course there has been. I had a giggle when I remembered my mom telling me in the late 70s that people can actually pick up the phone and call the White House. I had no idea! Poppycock, i figured. My mom got the number for me and watched me call. When the receptionist in Washington answered, I got scared and immediately hung up. 20 seconds later, the phone rang. My mother answered. It was the White House. Wanting to check on who had called them. Mom explained it away as her son playing with the phone and apologized. Wide-eyed? You bet. Remember, this was easily a decade or more before caller ID became common in America.

I’ve also looked back on all of the struggles I watched her go through. As a single parent, she played the role of mom and dad sometimes. She took me to my optimist football games. She took me to the mall for new clothes. She helped me build my last place piece of crap car for the Boy Scouts Pinewood Derby.

My piece of crap though.

During one two year stretch,  when things were particularly tough at home, she took me via Miami public transportation, 3 busses each way, just so I could grab a toy from the Marines Toys for Tots program at Christmas time.

All my mother ever wanted to do was see the Eiffel Tower, Christmas of 2011 I surprised her with that gift. We spent a week in Paris mid-January 2012. We walked the streets, we ate great Chinese food. We saw the Mona Lisa. I even bought a bunch of groceries and made dinner for her in the condo we stayed in. The windows were open, the bells of Notre Dame rang around the corner. It was everything she could have ever asked for.

It has been two full weeks since my mother’s passing. Obviously, I had no idea what that would look or feel like. A great deal of who I am (both good and bad frankly) is due in large part to my mother. But I get it now. Not a day has gone by since we lost her that I haven’t thought about some of the good times and some of the rough spots. I have no trouble believing that will last for a while, if not forever.

But I am also giddy as a school boy that Senea came up with that idea to add my mother’s voice to the end of our TV show. After 23 years in TV News, Eat It and Like It, our TV show and everything surrounding it is who I have become and I am so incredibly cool with that. Thanks to your support of course.

The best part now is that mom will always be with me. I will hear her voice at the end of every episode.

Wishing all moms a Happy Mother’s Day!

Jesse

jesse@eatitandlikeit.com'

Eat It and Like It launched in Savannah, Georgia with television personality Jesse Blanco as the host. His passion for food and travel has made Eat It and Like It a two-time EMMY nominated program about contemporary and traditional Southern food.