You’re Never Too Old to Skip

My sweet cousin whom I grew up playing Barbies and petting puppies and making toadhouses with sent me a gift two days ago.  One I want to share with y’all tonight.  She wrote me about something that happened that reminded her of my Mama.  A Maemae/Aunt Barbara sighting, I like to call it.  In the middle of missing Mama and grieving and remembering, it is such a precious gift to have someone else take time to remember with me.

My cousin and her daughter E, who is six months older than my Aub, travel once a week for E’s orchestra rehearsal. (She can play, y’all.)  My cousin goes along and takes her knitting and enjoys her time with her sweet girl and her time for uninterrupted knitting while E is rehearsing.  This is her story–

Last night as we were leaving, there was one of the orchestra members leaving at the same time but just slightly ahead of us.  E told me she plays flute and is very good, but is also very sweet.  She reminds me of Aunt Barbara.  She is built like her and even has some of the same features.  Well, as we are walking to our cars, she begins to skip.  Now this is not a young lady.  She is at least in her 60’s.  I thought she had one of the songs they had rehearsed in her head that encouraged her to skip.  So she turns around and sees us and I asked her what song was in her head to make her skip.  She said, “Oh, no.  I believe that the older you get the more you need to skip.”  All I could think of was your mom.  

Oh y’all.  The tears.  That is who my Mama was.  She loved this life and the people in it, and it seemed her spirit was often skipping even when her body could not.

Tonight I’m thankful for my sweet cousin who took time to share this story and who said it was okay to share it here.  I’m thankful she loves my Mama and misses her and still looks for her in this world too.  I’m grateful for my Mama, who loved life.  Her joie de vivre was a blessing to so many.

And I’m thankful for this that happened tonight on the way home from our walk with Miss Sophie.

Returning home from our walk--that's our Princess up ahead skipping along.  Cooter even started skipping a few steps later.

Returning home from our walk–that’s our Princess up ahead skipping along. Cooter even started skipping a few steps later.

I know it’s hard to tell, but when we were nearing home, our Princess began to skip.  She was singing and skipping, and I gave thanks that she has a bit of her Maemae in her too.

May you all have a skip-worthy day.  You’re never too old.  Love to all.

The Right Tools and the Right Folks

You would think with all my lists and planning and washing and packing and thinking and not sleeping and planning some more that I would not have forgotten anything.

I mean, I worked to give my oldest all the mental and emotional tools I thought she’d need to make this transition and be okay, better than okay.  As we’ve prepared and packed for college, I hope I put kindness and compassion and listening and strength and passion and faith and so much more in her carry-on of character.  Only time will tell what kind of job I did, I suppose.  But today, I found out that those aren’t the only tools she will need.

Practicality, one.

‘Dre, zero.

It was one thing or another, who remembers now, that needed a screwdriver.  And WE did NOT have one.  My Daddy would be so disappointed.  So would my cousin who came over to teach our girl about the most important things she needed to know for caring for her car.  I bet he would have had one on him.  I’m just sayin’.  Everything we needed the other day, he either had on him or in his truck.  (And he’s not a mechanic by trade.)  But I think the most disappointed would have been my Great Uncle.

Mama used to quote him, “Well as Uncle Ray would say, ‘The right tool for the job can make anything easy.  Or at least a whole lot easier.'”

And that is usually the case.

After we all unloaded and unpacked, I went to the local stuff mart to get stuff on our “oh you just thought you had your act together, Tara, but look at what you forgot” list.  It wasn’t horribly long, and in my defense, there were some things that just couldn’t be anticipated.  But yeah, some could.  And yes, I forgot the tissues for a second time.  So that first-year student carrying around a roll of toilet paper for wiping tears and blowing her nose?  Yep, that’s my girl!  We are nothing if not resourceful.  Ahem.  (Note to self:  Let’s try the old third time’s a charm and get it this time, okay?)

And in my searching for picture hangers (isn’t that the official name?) and a hammer and an all-purpose tool or a screwdriver, I found this.

I mean, some of this stuff, I don't even know, but it's got to be important.  This was the DELUXE kit.

I mean, some of this stuff, I don’t even know, but it’s got to be important. This was the DELUXE kit.

Y’all.  For the win, right?  I mean, there’s stuff in there I don’t even know what it’s for, but it has to be handy, don’t you think?  And it all came inside a lovely purple and grey canvas toolbox. (Can I call it a box if it’s canvas?)  I think I have found my new gift for…..well everyone.  I mean if you’re caring and compassionate and a great listener but you don’t have a screwdriver or hammer to your name…..well, we might have to rethink just how wonderful you are.

Just kidding.  But it is my hope that my girl will be able to be helpful and share this with those who need it and that this will go to her first house with her, where I am SURE she will need it.  Everyone needs a pair of channel changers, right?

So today I learned a lesson about being practical as well as philosophical in what I send my child out into the world with.  There will be some days that the practical will be way more important.  Like today.

And I also learned that while I know what my Daddy meant when he said almost eighteen years ago, “Ain’t nobody gonna help you raise this young’un,” today was the exception to that.  I’ve shared before about folks not setting good examples and what society deems “appropriate” and things like that–none of which make it easy to raise up a child. But today once again, I saw he could be mistaken.  Today friends were a huge part of my girl’s journey.  The love and caring that they shared with her and with my family today–you can’t buy that kind of friendship.  It’s a gift.  A gift of strength (hauling things up two flights of stairs–so thankful) and holding it together in the face of tears.  A gift of laughter (if you’ve never seen a big football player sitting on a color coordinated bed in a women’s dorm, I’m sorry, you’ve just missed out people).  A gift of stepping outside of the box and ingenuity (asking total strangers for a screwdriver for a child that isn’t your own; sitting in a van when it’s pouring down rain watching Gilligan with the littles *sigh*).  A gift of companionship (sticking it out and changing plans you might have had).  A gift of compassion (listening, sitting in the dark with someone, walking through the rain with them).  A gift of patience (my littles, long rainy day, ’nuff said).  A gift of shared joy (being there at the start of our girl’s journey and helping her get started).  A gift of caring (texting and calling and checking in to see how the new college student AND her Mama were getting along).  We are so lucky to have the kind of friends and family many folks only hope for.

This momentous day has been about the right tools and the right folks in our lives.  One you can find at the stuff mart for a price and the other is priceless.  Tonight I hope my girl and all of her classmates sleep well in their new home–tucked away under bedding that expresses each one’s personality or preferences.  And if they need to sniffle or cry a bit, I hope there’s at least an extra roll of toilet paper close by for them to use.  Most of all, I hope each one goes to sleep knowing how much she is loved–by friends and family.

Sweet dreams, Aub.  I love you.  And as Maemae would say, “Happy pink and blue dreams.”  And if you have trouble falling asleep, count your friends.  That will take you longer than it possibly could to fall asleep.  They outnumber the stars I think.  ❤ –‘Dre

When the Family Gets Together

That's not something you see very often!

That’s not something you see very often

In my travels up and down 247 back and forth to Macon a few months back, I saw this sign.  That is not something you see very often, is it?

But once upon a time…..

Some of my fondest summer memories are of time spent with my cousins.  Mama and my Aunt loaded all seven and then eight of us up in the Chevy II Nova (way back in the days before mandatory car seats and seat belt laws), and we headed up to Macon.  The Museum of Arts and Sciences hosted movie mornings in the summer. I think it was every Tuesday and Thursday, but I can’t be sure now.  On the planetarium walls I saw many of the old Disney classics–Cannonball Express, The Ugly Dachshund, Candleshoe, and Escape to Witch Mountain, among many others.  Oh I loved the cool air and the comfortable seats in the planetarium.  When we left the cool darkness, the bright sunlight and steamy, sweltering heat made us blink and immediately enveloped us on the short walk back to the car.

After the movie, we often (okay my perspective, may not have been THAT often) went by the Krystal’s drive-thru and picked up burgers on the way home.  Back then 25 cent Krystals were not so unusual.  I can remember a head count being done–how many can you eat? was asked of the older ones and extras were added for the younger ones.  I wonder what those folks thought when Mama and my Aunt ordered 35 or 40 Krystals at a time.  With coupons.  Good times.

So many fun times spent together, especially in the summers.  Pots of chili or spaghetti spooned out in numerous bowls.  Playing Colored Ribbons or Cowboys and Indians in their yard or ours.  The Barbie Wedding.  Easter Egg Hunts and now Turkey Egg Hunts too.  Movie marathons on the Video Disc Players.  Remember those?  The thing holding the movie was shaped like a record album.  Remember those? Oh. Never mind.  Suffice to say, great times then.  Piled up in my Aunt and Uncle’s living room.  Star Wars–the original movies.  The Man From Snowy River.  The room was so dark and the picture on their color tv was so bright.  Almost like our own mini movie theater.

I am thinking of my cousins tonight as one of the best cousins ever has her birthday today.  And in the past week my own children have spent lots of fun times with some of their cousins.  And it’s also my niece’s birthday.  Yeah, I’ve got cousins on the brain.  And family.  And Krystal’s.  But that’s another story.

I am lucky to have a close family, where second and third generations out, we gather and love each other, share laughter and tears, and have each other’s backs.  If I am in a bind, I know who to call.

Tonight I am thankful for my cousins, who know me and oddly enough, seem to love me anyway.  I am thankful for my children’s cousins, and second cousins, and third, who brighten their lives and mine–with their creativity, imaginations, sweet spirits, and downright fun outlooks on life.  I give thanks for Mama and Daddy and all my aunts and uncles who made family a priority and made sure we had these great memories to turn back to on days like today.  And I’m grateful to Rody Davenport Jr. and J. Glenn Sherrill.  Oh, they’re the folks who invented and founded Krystal’s.  I don’t eat their burgers as often as I used to, but I still love them and the memories they carry with them.

A Hallmark card I got years ago--yep, this is how we roll.....

A Hallmark card I got years ago–yep, this is how we roll…..

Some fun Krystal facts: (from Wikipedia)

The first customer, French Jenkins, ordered a cup of coffee and six Krystals–for 35 cents

The focus for the restaurant from the beginning was cleanliness.  Mrs. Davenport suggested the name based on a crystal ball lawn ornament she saw–thinking of crystal clear and clean together, with a K for a twist

It first opened in 1932–it is the oldest hamburger chain in the South

Brenda Webb took her name from the chain after her sister Loretta Lynn suggested it–to Crystal Gayle

The current world record for eating Krystal burgers is 103 burgers consumed in 8 minutes by Joey Chestnut, set on October 28, 2007.

Best Cookbook Ever

I love cookbooks.  One of my favorites is Aunt Bea’s Mayberry Cookbook that I got for Christmas probably twenty years ago.  I have some stand-by recipes from that one, including Mr. McBeevee’s Make Ahead Breakfast Casserole that I make every year for Christmas morning.  (And that is our big meal of the day!  I know, awesome, right?  I love our Christmases.)  I also love a cookbook that a dear sweet lady from Perry gave me as a wedding gift eleven years ago.  It is a small-town cookbook with awesome recipes, and I love that the ladies who wrote it tell you who in the family loved what recipe.  I use the sour cream pound cake recipe in that one faithfully.  (And I know that Miss Nelle always used 1 stick butter and 1/2 cup Crisco and Miss Mary used two sticks of margarine.  This is the kind of thing they share throughout.  Just precious.)

But I have to say that my all time favorite cookbook is one that has never been published.

It was when I was pregnant with my little guy almost seven years ago that I got a manila envelope in the mail from my youngest cousin.  She is a very smart young woman.  She knows how to cook delicious, healthy foods from scratch.  She can knit like nobody’s business, has a yen for yarn, and a heart for those in need all over the world.  And I love her more than I can put into words.

My most FAVORITE cookbook ever--filled with delicious recipes, all handwritten! (I've added the stains over the years.)

My most FAVORITE cookbook ever–filled with delicious recipes, all handwritten! (I’ve added the stains over the years.)

In the manila envelope was a four by six notebook.  It was lovely on the outside and I thought, well, how sweet.  I had no idea.  When I turned the cover, I saw that this notebook was filled on EVERY page.  With recipes.  Great ones.  But get this.  All.  Hand.  Written.  She sent it to congratulate us and to share her favorite recipes.  We are alike in this respect–we both love to bake, but cooking not as much.  One of my sisters says that my children are better off than hers, as she likes to cook and not bake.  “You’re going to feed yours, that’s a given…..and you’re going to bake.  Mine?  They pretty much get fed.  Baking not so much.”

So in this treasure of recipes, I have found some favorites that I have made over and over.  One of them is for Ginger Crinkles.  Guaranteed to put someone in labor.  I am not kidding.  After my little guy was born, I called my cousin and left her a message.  “The baby is here,” I said, and I left my number at the hospital.  We’re old school and hadn’t found out the gender, so of course she had to call back and say, “Well?”  I told her “it’s a boy” and his name, we chatted over his measurements, and then I said, “And it’s all your fault and those Ginger Crinkles.”  (I had made some on the Wednesday before he was born on Saturday–and I had been munching on them quite a bit.)

She laughed a little, and replied, “Yeah.  Sorry about that.”

“What?  I was just teasing you.”

She proceeded to tell me that ginger has properties that can speed up labor for a woman whose body is getting prepared.  She’s smart like that.  A wealth of knowledge that one.  And believe me, I’ve taken advantage of that wealth.  (She rescued us more than once while Mama was in the hospital.  Wow.  I’m not sure if I ever properly thanked her for that.)

So it turns out that the Ginger Crinkles, which I tend to make a lot in the fall, are extra special cookies.  Good for you and extra, extra delicious.  I promise you I will never buy another ginger snap.   (And these cookies had similar results for both of my sisters when they were pregnant!)

Another favorite is the Cocoa Apple Cake.  For years, a red velvet cake made by Mama (without all the red dye–come on, people–that stuff canNOT be good for you) was my traditional cake.  But since I started making my own cake the past couple of years during Daddy’s fight with lymphoma, this has been my go-to cake.  Yes, I know chocolate, apple, allspice, and cinnamon might not sound that good, but oh my, you cannot imagine what you are missing.   It is amazing.  I could seriously eat it all in one sitting, I think.

There are so many others that we have tried and enjoyed, especially all of the muffin recipes, but I think the one we have made the most often is her Banana Bread recipe.  It has been called by one friend, “World Peace Banana Bread,” because, he says, if it were sent to warring countries, they would stop fighting.  It is just that good.  Tonight before we headed out on our walk (I made good on my promise from last night), I used up our bananas that were on their way out the door, and made a double batch of this bread.  Oh.  My.  Land.  It is so good, the one big pan is almost gone.  And that’s just from three of us eating on it.  I like to tell myself that with the fruit, the oatmeal, and the wheat germ, it has to be good for us, right?

Best banana bread ever!

Best banana bread ever!

I was thinking about the cookbook from my cousin as I prepared the banana bread once again this evening, and how many memories are tied into the different recipes (just like in Miss Nelle’s and Miss Mary’s cookbook).  And as we went on our walk after, I reflected on those memories.  I am so blessed, and I don’t take that lightly.  Well not most of the time anyway.

Tonight I am thankful for treasured gifts.  For my Mama who let me flour up the kitchen and bake whatever I wanted to try.  My Mama would come over after I was grown, look at the floor in my kitchen, and say, “Oh you’ve been baking, have you?”  Guilty.  I make a mess when I bake.  Always have.  Good stuff can come from great messes, my friends.

I’m also thankful for the treasured gift of my sweet and spunky cousin who sent me this precious memory-filled, hand-written cookbook.  She’s been on my mind and heart a lot lately.  I cannot imagine how much time it took her to put this together for me.  Or what time, energy, and patience the socks that she made for me during our dark times must have taken. (She even made sure the yarn was fair trade and environmentally friendly–have I mentioned how much I love her?) And what a treasure the shawl she knitted for me is, the one that I’ve used to wrap myself up in love and comfort as I’ve said goodbye to both of my parents.  I am thankful for her generous spirit that has her giving so freely of her gifts and her knowledge.  She is one who honks less and seeks more–she inspires me with the way she uses her gifts and talents to share with those in need, and how she empowers her children to do the same.   Mostly I am thankful for her love.  She loves with all her being, and I, among many, am blessed by that.  Family.  If you got a good one, hang on tight.  And love on them as much as you can, even if it gets a little messy.  Remember that good stuff I mentioned before?  That.  Family–they are one of life’s greatest gifts.

Me, a few years ago, during my baker apprenticeship

Me, a few years ago, during my baker apprenticeship