“What should we have for dinner tonight?”  My mom would ask, hands on the steering wheel, eyes fixed on the mountain of traffic ahead.  I could tell by the way she said the word what in a long sing-song, “wha-at,” that she wasn’t really talking to me, but rather musing aloud to herself.

No matter.  I had lots of ideas.  “What about macaroni and cheese?”  I’d almost always offer first.

She’d wrinkle her nose.  Although she did sometimes serve it (mostly when my dad was coming home late), my mother clearly did not consider Kraft macaroni and cheese from a box “dinner.”  A point on which we decidedly differed, since I’d be happy to eat it pretty much every night.

“Uhhm… What about pizzas?  Yeah, we could make those mini English muffin pizzas that we made that one time!  That would be good.”  A helpful suggestion like this often would go without response.  She’d put on her blinker to change lanes.  Brake for more traffic.  Wrinkle her brow.

“What about apricot chicken?” I’d venture.

“Not enough time,” my mom would mutter, reaching down to turn off the heat.

“Taco salad?  Ham hock and beans?  Spinach hamburger?”

My mom would let out a long sigh, “No.”

The limits of my twelve year-old culinary knowledge exhausted, I’d sit back and stare out the window, losing myself in the stream of news reports coming from the radio.  By the time we’d turned into the tiny parking lot of the Santa Venetia Market, I could tell she’d made up her mind by the way she briskly threw the van into park and shoved her keys into her purse.

I have no idea how many dinners my mom has made for me in my lifetime.  5,000? 6,000?  Let’s say 6,000.  From where I stand now, as an adult, the only thing I can think of that could be more exhausting than making six thousand dinners is making six thousand decisions about what to make for those six thousand dinners…  What can one say in response to such a remarkably heroic amount of effort?  “Thank you” just seems inadequate.  How about I say that I feel extraordinarily lucky to have had a mom who somehow found the energy to nourish me and my siblings with 6,000 (delicious!  mostly nutritious!) dinners over nearly four decades. (And, yes, mom, I know now how lucky I am to have a mom who cared enough to not always make macaroni and cheese from a box every time I wanted!)