Mom was nowhere to be seen, but I smelled beef roasting in the oven when I peeked into the kitchen. On the counter next to the stove was a quart jar of mushrooms. Mom canned many jars of them during the fall. When the jars were cool, we placed them on shelves in the basement root cellar. It looked as though mushrooms were on the menu for tonight.
Last autumn Mom and I had picked the mushrooms we were going to have for supper. We had walked down the hill behind our farm buildings. Once we reached our back 40, we crossed over into the neighbor’s cow pasture, which was dotted with the stumps of trees cut down many years before. Each fall, mushrooms grew thickly around those stumps.
We picked mushrooms many times during the week or two that they were in season, each time we filled the wicker picnic-sized basket my mother carried. We never felt chilly as we walked back uphill to the farmyard despite having the wind in our face. I loved the way mom looked in her brown-plaid wool shirt jacket with the basket on her arm and her gray curly hair. I felt like all was well in the world when I was with her.
The aroma of roasting beef evoked images of slices of tender, browned roast on my supper plate, topped with creamy mushroom gravy. My mouth watered. I loved mushrooms. Unfortunately, my brother didn’t share my love of mushrooms. Billy wouldn’t complain at the supper table, because that would be rude to Mom about the food she prepared. He would just quietly pass the gravy bowl to the person sitting next to him. When not at the table though, Billy had often called mushrooms, “slimy toadstools.”
Usually everyone in my family ate and liked all that was set before us. For Billy to be repulsed by mushrooms seemed strange to me.