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Through a combined series of misfortunes, distractions, and sheer stupidity on my part, I managed to burn two gallons of homemade chili in the pot on the stove. The putrid burnt flavor made its way through the whole pot, so I threw away the chili. I scraped an inch of burned beans, meat, and tomatoes from the bottom of the pan, exposing that really hard, burned black stuff. Charcoal had nothing on this pan. I put some soap and water in the pan and left it to soak overnight.
I went back the following day, looked into the pan assessing the damages, and decided to just throw it away. That's when it happened.
I heard my mother's voice saying, "Don't you dare! You get over to that sink and clean that pan right now."
I sassed back, "You can't tell me what to do. I am an adult now!"
I could feel Mom’s presence as I scrubbed on the charred bottom of the pan, I tried to reason with her, "Look at this mess – let's just throw the pan away and get another one."
It was an expensive pan, a nice stainless steel ten-quart pot with sturdy side handles, and a vented glass lid. My wife bought it for me as a gift. I was sure it was ruined. "Keep scrubbing." I heard the voice say.
"It's not coming out," was my plea of defense.
"Use Comet," she replied.
I argued, "but it's…"
I scrubbed and scrubbed that pan with Comet and a green scratchy pad, then rinsed the pan. Then, feeling it was good enough, I started to put it in the strainer when the voice clarified, "It’s not clean. There's still more in the pan." Admittedly, there were still a few black spots.
Again, considering throwing the pot away, I looked over both shoulders. I couldn’t see her, but still I was sure Mom was watching from somewhere around the corner to see that this didn't happen.
After the final scrubbing, I rinsed the pan. Finally, I looked into the bottom of a once again shiny stainless-steel pan. I felt a warm pat on my shoulder, and heard a softer voice asking, "Now, aren't you glad you didn't throw away that perfectly good pan?"
I took another glance over my shoulder. No one was there. I examined my fingertips; they were pink and tender from scrubbing with the abrasives. My wrist ached a bit from the odd angle used reaching into the deep pot. I quipped to myself, "People should not be able to talk from the grave."
The voice replied, "I heard that too."
As I dried the pan, I thought about how much I miss those days in the kitchen with my mom and the lessons she taught me. They were lessons about cooking and cleaning, right from wrong, living, loving, and believing. Lessons about not wasting anything – food, or pans.
It's been over 20 years now since she passed away. From time to time, Mom still stops into my kitchen, offering me some remedial training. You know, people like mom, who've passed before us, don't talk from the grave – they continue to speak through the heart.
Melissa walked into the kitchen. I smiled, showing her the pan, and proudly said, "Look, I got it clean."
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