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Mother’s Prevention magazines offer no magic, just memories

My mother’s hope for a fabulous figure arrived monthly, dispensed in a small magazine called Prevention that offered tips on how to get the flatter belly, firmer buttocks and stronger legs of a young woman.
Mother must’ve thought the magazine’s title alone was a guarantee — that Prevention would prevent old age from creeping in just by its very presence. Every month, she read the latest issue and then put it with all the others. But I seldom saw her succumb to any physical exercises.
So there they were, years of magazines stacked like brick outhouses, as my brother and sister gathered to clean out our mother’s home after it was sold.
We drew straws to see who got first dibs on certain items, but the Preventions were there just for the taking. No drawing necessary.
Brother and sister didn’t give them a second look, but for some reason, I couldn’t surrender every copy to the recycling bin. I kept eight of them. I came across them again last week.
I know why I have a hard time getting rid of books I may never read — including those I should have read in college — and why I keep certain magazines as though they get better with time like aged cheese.
I learned from my mother.
When she was a girl living in Cleveland, Ga., Mother was forced to spend months indoors, recuperating from anemia. Her doctor, Dr. L.G. Neal Sr., brought Zane Grey books to her home to help her pass the time. Mother read them all. Decades later, she talked about what a great writer Zane Grey was, how he could describe the West like no one else.
So I ordered for her the first of several books in the Zane Grey series, and she kept the books coming, month after month. She filled a shelf with them. But in her declining years, one of her caregivers borrowed the books and never returned them.
Mother also loved Francois Henri LaLanne, better known as Jack, who died just a few weeks ago. If Prevention could prevent old age just by occupying a shelf, Jack LaLanne surely could conjure away flab through the miracle of television. Mother watched him religiously and believed every juice-filled promise.
Mother’s trouble — which became our trouble once our metabolism rates slowed down — was that she was too good at cooking. Cherry cobbler, pancakes with a touch of corn meal, something sinful she called monkey bread, coconut cake made with real coconut cracked open in the oven — she excelled at them all. Name it, she could cook it.
Her biscuits were heavenly. Made them with lard. Nobody cooks with lard anymore. And if Jack LaLanne or Prevention ever spoke against it, Mother never said.
Mother died 10 years ago this month. And I still have those eight old copies of Prevention magazine.
I was going to throw them away last week. But then I decided to keep them. Just a little while longer.

Phil Hudgins’ column is published in many newspapers around the Southeast.