Author:  Vivian Cumins

Have you ever eaten something that left a taste in your mouth? The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines aftertaste as the persistence of a sensation (as of flavor or emotion) after the stimulating agent or experience has gone. Things that come to my mind that always leave a taste in my mouth are onions and garlic. Good thing I love them both. However, just like the bitter or sweet aftertaste left in our mouth after food or drink consumption, so is our legacy after we are gone.

I met Mama Betty when I was 17 years old. I had only been dating her son for a few weeks; she predicted right away we would be married and referred to me as her daughter-in-law well before her son and I said “I do” two years later. Wanting to surprise my new young husband with his favorite side dish, I asked Mama Betty to teach me how to make her famous potato salad. “It’s all about the pickles,” she would profess. The Vlasic Dills had to be cut into thick chunks and there had to be a lot of them. On the day of my cooking lesson, she made me do everything while she leaned against the kitchen counter and provided directions. I remember her saying it was “better to do, than to watch”, if I wanted to learn. She didn’t use measuring cups or a recipe – she tasted as she went and encouraged me to do the same.

I have thousands of memories of Mama Betty. She was a bonus mom during my teen years. She became my biggest supporter the day her son and I divorced. She was the loudest cheerleader at my second wedding. But the fondest memory I have of her is the love she displayed the day she taught me how to make her potato salad.

It was simple. It didn’t cost a dime. It was an expression of who she was.

That is what legacy is – the taste we leave in others’ mouths when we are gone. This is the taste she left in mine.

Vivian and Mama Betty

Me and Mama Betty at my second wedding. She was front and center – just where I knew she would be.