Tag Archives: Granny

Pans And Patience

Standard

 

 

And a misplaced tradition…

Once upon a time, long, long ago, there were women in my family who made magical sweet treats and savory dishes.  My cousin Judy carries on her own version of the family culinary heritage.  I thought of her today as the first snow of the season fell, because on the first snow day every year, Judy likes to make a fruit pie.  I hope she enjoyed baking today and looking out at her beautiful snow-covered farm.

E68CB1FC-1A7F-42D1-A5BF-48E5BF97E041

WAY back in the day, both of Reed’s and my grandmothers, and also Aunt Martha, made apple stack cakes.  Apple is the only flavor I ever remember them making, at least.  I also remember the apples for many of those cakes being dried on window screens inside a shut-up car in Mamaw and Papaw’s yard.  Granny never referred to dried apples as apples; they were always simply called “fruit”.

Reed had the foresight to ask for lessons in stack-cake-making from both Mamaw and Aunt Martha.  The recipe itself is not a difficult one, but the making of a stack cake is a process.  I remember Reed saying that Aunt Martha told him it just takes pans and patience.  (I might add that counter space would be really helpful!)

It’s strange how so many of my food memories have become less about the food and more about the hands that prepared it.  Of course, every tooth in my head is a sweet tooth, and I do LOVE me all those yummy treats, especially the rare, special-occasion ones.  A few years ago at Christmas time, Reed got a hankering for a stack cake, but did not have the desire, pans, or patience to make it himself.  Fortunately, we have a high school friend who at that time owned a highly-acclaimed local bakery (she has since sold it to her niece, so it remains in good hands).  Reed mentioned to Peggy that he sure would love a stack cake, and Peggy said something along the lines of, “I can hook your a$$ up!”

And hook it up she did.  He brought this humble-looking, beautiful creation to Christmas Eve at Dad’s house, and eventually we tore into it.  The moment I took a bite, I burst into grateful tears.  Decades disappeared, and my mouth and mind were flooded with the flavor of nostalgia.  Once more, I was reminded that tastebuds and heartstrings are directly, and closely, connected.

1D7889CA-2723-4F6E-9442-9E96DFAC4986

People of faith often talk about Heaven being a wedding feast, or a banquet.  I like to believe that this is true.  And I like to imagine the tables there, laden with something to satisfy every craving, and plenty of room for everyone to share in the marriage supper of The Lamb.

0DBDB750-784B-438B-9130-4E0609A4F0B2

(I shared this recipe for a church cookbook shortly after I was married.  The amount of fruit needed was not specified, it’s just something you have to eyeball…but more is better.)

The Stories

Standard

And why they matter…

I have asserted countless times, in my everyday life and this blog, that I am a collector, of objects and of memories.  My home is filled with little items that might have no value to “normal” people, but they are priceless to me because of the memories attached to them…because of their stories.  My hope is that, piece by piece, I can photograph these objects and share their stories, if for no other reason than to make someone pause to think about their own similar little treasures.  Those little treasures can often open the floodgates to deeper levels of history.

For as long as I can remember, a small, round, ornately decorated trinket box sat on Granny’s dresser…then it became Mama’s dresser and trinket box after Granny died. After the move from the Ford Street house, Mama and Dad picked new bedroom furniture, and that little box found its home on a different dresser.  After Mama died, the little box came to live with me.

I don’t know if it was a gift to Granny from one of her children, or a friend, or maybe even from Granddad before he died.  I never thought to ask about its story prior to my own awareness of it.  It was just pretty and shiny, and it played music.  Now I wish I had learned more about it.

That is how I feel about so many things now…I wish I had asked a million questions while Mama, The Aunts, Granny and Mamaw, were still here to answer them.  Recently a first cousin on Dad’s side, whom I have never met, found me on social media and connected with me, hoping to learn more about our family history.  And once again, I find myself feeling sad that I never bothered to learn more from those who knew the stories best.

I can’t change the past and ask the dead all the things I want to know, but I can pick Dad’s brain while he is still here.  I can do research online.  I can share what I know and hope that, moving forward, it can benefit the younger family members who might someday want to know about their past.

DC380718-8F9A-484B-90E5-D5B80BF47B1D

Touched

Standard

From their hands to mine…

Once upon a time, long, long ago, ladies wore gloves and carried handkerchiefs as part of their apparel for activities like church, shopping or lunch with other ladies.  It was a more genteel era, an age of structured dresses, pillbox hats and cultured civility.  I often wonder if I wasn’t born in the wrong time because I sometimes yearn for the days of gloves, hats and hankies.

As a lifelong collector with a large extended family, I have inherited some of my Granny’s, Mama’s and aunts’ gloves and hankies.  The detail and craftsmanship put into these tiny items is impressive.  Many of the gloves have decorative stitching or embroidery, and little bitty pearl buttons sewn onto the cuffs.  Most of the handkerchiefs boast intricate stitching and lace as well.

imageimage

image

From the research I’ve done and the variety of items I’ve inherited, there seem to have been specific occasions when a particular length of glove might have been worn, or when a certain hankie might have been carried.  Some of Granny’s handkerchiefs are decorated with motifs for Christmas, weddings or Valentine’s Day, while the gloves range from just-wrist-length to halfway up my arm.  Generally, the longer the glove, the dressier the occasion.  There used to be strict etiquette guidlines for such matters and those rules can still be found in old books and online.  It’s fun to look back at how fashion and manners used to be.

There are also treasure troves of items like these in antique shops, flea markets and on the Internet.  Vintage textiles fascinate me, and the gloves and handkerchiefs in particular, items that began as strictly utilitarian objects, started being decorated and embellished.  They became both useful AND beautiful, petite pieces of art, suitable for framing, shadow boxes and any other display method one can imagine.  I can only begin to imagine the stories behind these tiny treasures.

I guess that’s why the gloves and hankies from my family mean so much to me.  The stories that come with them are part of my heritage.  There were the gloves that I wore with my wedding gown that belonged to Mama, and to Granny before her.  Even though Granny had been gone for 13 years by the time my wedding day came, wearing her gloves made me feel like part of her was with me somehow.  Granny also kept her diamond wedding set tied into the corner of a little hankie when she wasn’t wearing them (which was most of the time because they were fancy and she didn’t want to lose them).  I wish I knew which hankie she used for that.  Before Jeff and I were married, his Aunt Ann made me a beautiful lace-decorated basket and pillow, and wiith it she gave me a handkerchief that had belonged to her mother, Jeff’s grandmother.  What a sweet and meaningful welcome into the family.  I carried it on our wedding day.

I can imagine the church revivals, weddings and funerals where those gloves were worn…the tears of grief and joy wiped from the cheeks of loved ones with those soft squares of embroidered linen and lace.  Ages later, I look at these mementoes and I feel the women of my family in the things that they once Touched.

image

image

The Song Of My People

Standard

My kind of Southern…

A Facebook quiz recently asked, “How Southern Are You?”, and several friends of mine had taken the quiz and shared their results.  I was curious about the questions and what my percentage might be, so I took the quiz.  I had done 19 of the 36 things listed, giving me a paltry 53% Southern score.  I was disappointed until I realized how limited the quiz was in its scope.

This whole thing started me thinking about what “Southern” really means, realizing that it varies by state, region and individual.  My reflections on Southern-ness are unique to me even though many other people will have shared the same experiences.  So, if I may wax rhapsodic for a few minutes, I would like to share a bit of what being Southern means to me.

 

 

The song of my people

is dinner on the grounds and

breakfast for supper

 

front porch swings and rocking chairs

and the squeak of Granny’s old aluminum

glider

always moving

never going

anywhere

 

aprons dusted with biscuit flour and

women like Southern tea

sweet and strong

 

white-glove gentility and

hard-nosed grit

 

I can talk about my family

any way I like

but you

you best not

 

cast iron skillet and mason jar

vessels of promise

 

fifth Sunday hymn service

and shouts from the Amen corner

the song of my people

Image

 

 

 

Ghosts of Christmas Past

Standard

Nostalgia has me going in circles…

I was invited, and very much looking forward to, a wedding this evening. However, my body had other plans. After a week and a half of not feeling well I finally dragged myself in to the doctor’s office today and left with a prescription for some strong antibiotics, as well as a medium-sized dose of self-pity. It’s very cold outside, and that cold seems to have seeped into my very bones tonight. Oh well, I thought, if I can’t be at the wedding of my two friends, at least ‘The Grinch” is coming on and I can enjoy that. Imagine my disappointment when, instead of the animated 1960’s television classic, the opening credits to the modern-day theatrical release blared from my TV screen. Not that there’s anything wrong with the movie, I guess. It just is not what I was expecting, and not what I wanted.

Hence this blog post. This time of year finds me revisiting Christmases of my childhood, youth, early marriage…ghosts of Christmas past, I suppose, the circle of years. I remember kid-Christmases with Reed and our cousins at our house on Ford Street and their house on Arnold Street, when dolls and teddy bears and toy trucks were the things our fondest little dreams were made of.

Image

I still have my last Christmas present from Granny before she died, a little black and white panda bear. It has a music box inside it that used to play “Frere Jacques”, but the winding key was lost decades ago. Later Christmases on Ford Street, and then on Denwood after the bridge took the Ford Street house, included a big supper with lots of family coming and going on Christmas Eve, which was always when we opened presents and had our gathering. Mamaw and Papaw would be there, after Dad or Reed would go and pick them up. Mamaw and Papaw were homebodies and often huffed and puffed about coming over, but they always had a wonderful time once they were there. One year I remember we all got watches for Christmas, Mamaw and Papaw included.

Often Aunt Ruby and Aunt Martha spent the evening with us as well, contributing something to the dinner table and providing lots of love and laughs. A highlight for me was always after supper and presents, when we’d gather around the piano and sing. Mama always played beautifully and sang alto, and the rest of us harmonized on familiar Christmas carols and old-timey songs out the hymnbooks that are in my collection now. Aunt Martha singing “Ivory Palaces” echoes in my soul to this day, her sweet soprano drifting through the recesses of my memory.

Image

For a large part of my life, I was unaware that my Mamaw played both piano and organ.  Once she asked Mama if she could play the piano, and Mama said, “Why, sure, Mamaw, play it all you want!”  And she did, like a house afire!  This side of Mamaw was a revelation to me, and what a kick we all got from seeing and hearing her play with such vigor and pleasure.

Image

Papaw enjoyed our musical holiday tradition as well, often adding his voice to the female chorus.  Dad would usually sit reading quietly, and Reed generally took the pictures, including, I believe, the second and third ones posted here.  He was a photographer from a very young age.

Some of my Christmas gifts have been memorable, like the “watch” Christmas, and the year Granny gave me the musical panda bear.   One year Mama and Dad gave me my “hope chest”, a lovely cedar box with its natural striated red and golden grain left showing, a gift which made me weep with joy.  The year Jeff proposed and gave me my ring and the first place setting of our good china was a milestone Christmas, as was our first married Christmas when all I asked for was a good winter coat (which I still own and can once again fit into!).

Some years the gifts were quickly outgrown or forgotten.  Some gifts, I am ashamed to admit, were disappointing to me.  Looking at all the decades of Christmases, I realize that the true gifts did not come stowed under the tree wrapped in shiny paper.  The true gifts came as we made circles.  Circles around the supper table sharing food, laughter and well-worn family stories.  Circles around the piano, blending voices in harmony as we sang other well-worn stories from out of the hymnbooks.  Circles now incomplete down here because Mama, Mamaw and Papaw and The Aunts have gone to celebrate their Christmases in Heaven.  I look forward to the day when in Paradise every day will be like Christmas…when once again our circle will be complete.

Nine Diamond

Standard

A quilting memory

 

Nine Diamond

The quilt patterns have all kinds of names
Dutch Doll and Dresden Plate
Flower Garden and 

Nine Diamond 

which I never understood because it was squares

I have a Southern Belle made out of Granny’s dresses

When I was little I watched my Granny sew
Little colored squares into
Bright patchwork patterns
On her aproned lap

Many nights I stayed up late
Talking, listening and laughing
With Mama and her sisters
As they sat in straight-backed chairs around the frames

Nimbly stitching through layers of gingham and calico
All the while
Sharing themselves with each other
And with me

“Measure twice, cut once, and
Don‘t be using your good scissors for anything else!
A number 7 needle is what you want to use, the kind
With the gold eye, if you can find them.
And don’t forget your thimble, it’ll save your fingers!”

Still, a thimble would eventually wear through and
That number 7 needle would prick a finger
Leaving a little blood-spot behind
Like a scar on the fabric

Sometimes the scar is what makes a thing
Most beautiful

 

Image

 

 Image

Image

Image

Image