The Sit Down: Louise Strahan

I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Mother’s Day—which for all of you who need reminding is this Sunday—than to talk to my mother, Mrs. Louise Strahan (a.k.a. Mama Stray). She’s more than just the woman who took care of me and my sister and brothers: she’s an inspiration and a tower of strength. She’s been married to my dad for 58 years, and she’s shown me what it means to be a good partner and a good man. She’s no-nonsense and can make a butter cake with real chocolate icing that would make you cry, and although I’d like to say she doesn’t hold a grudge, she’s got a memory like an elephant (for the record, Mama, I did not throw out that box of old photos you’ve been looking for). She’s proud of her grandkids and she loves her family more than anything in this world. Mama Stray always tells it like it is, with wisdom, honesty, and always a whole lot of love. Just don’t try and buy the woman flowers.

On her baby boy:“Michael was always following me. He was the youngest one at home, so he and I went everywheretogether.”

Her dream Mother’s Day meal:“No one ever cooks mea meal, so that’s hard to say. But I love to go to Olive Garden. I would get the chicken with the noodles and definitely cheesecake for dessert.”

On that famous cake recipe:“Michael is always hungry when he comes home, and the butter cake is something he likes, so I used to just cook it for him. There’s no secret ingredient; when you fix something [from scratch], you just go on and fix it. I don’t buy icing; I don’t like it. I make my own.”

Her coaching days:“Michael used to play pretty good softball and basketball. I coached him in basketball at the youth center in Germany. There were five teams and we were number one. I was the only women [coaching]. [Michael and his brothers] played all sports, so you can imagine how much running I did with four boys.

Her special request:“I told Michael, ‘Don’t send me flowers. And don’t send me another fruit basket, either.’ I have gotten to the point [in my life] where I feel blessed every day, so there’s nothing I really need or want. Sometimes I walk through my house and say, ‘I need to get rid of this.’”

And about that one time …“Michael fell out of a car once. I was going to the bank and his older sister, she was about 17, they were in the car. I said to them, ‘Do notget out of this car. I am going to the bank.’ I go into the bank, I come back, and everyone is sitting still. I drive up the road and make a U-turn, and Michael’s door flew open and he fell out. I said, ‘Who opened that door?” And no one would admit it. I said, ‘You won’t talk now, but I’ll get it out of you one way or the other.’ They didn’t talk till 30 years later.”

Her Mother’s Day wish:“As long as all my children are healthy and happy, I am satisfied.”