The Secret to Making Biscuits

One of my favorite memories from this past holiday season happened less than two weeks ago.  On the day after New Year’s my brother Bubba taught my oldest, Aub, how to make Maemae’s biscuits.

She even stood on a stool beside him, just like she used to with her Maemae.

Bubba told us the story of how he learned. Years ago he went to Mama in the kitchen and told her he’d like to learn how to make her biscuits.  She said, “Well, go ask your Daddy.  He taught me how to make them.”

So he went and found Daddy.  He made his request of Daddy, who asked him if he knew what the ingredients were.  Bubba replied, “Buttermilk, flour, and shortening.”

Daddy nodded.

Then he shared the most important part of biscuit making there is.

“The thing you need to know, the secret to making biscuits, is to remember that any biscuit is better than no biscuits at all.  Because you are going to make some bad ones.  It will happen, before you can get good at it.  But any biscuit is better than none.”  Daddy paused for a second.  “Now go on in the kitchen and let your Mama show you how to make them.”

And so he did.

Bubba was known for his cathead biscuits when he was in college.  Apparently grad school too, as his sweet wife whom he met there shared that she might have had her head turned by his biscuit making abilities.

I don’t blame her.

That boy can flat out make some biscuits.

Well, now.

It wasn’t always the case, but remember, any biscuit is better than…..

well, you know.  It’s the secret to making biscuits.  But let’s keep it amongst ourselves, shall we?

Tonight I’m thankful for the passing along of this family legacy–the biscuit making.  I’m thankful for a brother who makes time to share the stories and the gifts that he was given, and I’m thankful for our time together over the holidays.  It was far too short and more precious than all the gold or winning that big ol’ jackpot folks keep talking about right now.

Family, stories, and biscuits.  It’s hard to have a bad day when you’ve got all three of those treasures.

Love to all.

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Bubba’s biscuits as he rolled them out on the pan.

 

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I tried to get a photo of the whole pan, but someone was too quick for me to do it.  They were that good!

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Cooter’s biscuit with honey.  Mmmmm mmmmm.  That’s good eatin’ right there.  

The Tenth Day of Christmas

On the tenth day of Christmas…..

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My Frigidaire runneth over, and I am very thankful.

ten dishes of leftovers in the fridge.

I love leftovers.  I really do.  They are the best.  I love having food already prepared, easily warmed and served–especially during the week when our schedules tend to get a little busier.

Over the holidays I did more cooking than usual.  Today it caught up with us, and oh the joy of having leftovers to pull from to feed folks after a busy evening away from home!

And in a timely coincidence, there were ten different dishes of leftovers to choose from.

Potato salad
Chili
Sweet potatoes with apples and cranberries
Black-eyed Peas
Rice
Ham
Squash
Lasagna
Chicken Sloppy Joes
My Brother’s Biscuits which taste so much like Mama’s (enough to bring a tear to my eye, thankful he left us the rest of them left over from our supper last night)

We have enjoyed our mix-matched suppers, and I’m pretty sure we have one or two more left in there. Sometimes I wonder if maybe I wouldn’t be better off to spend my weekend cooking, so every night of the week could look like tonight. Something to ponder anyway.

Tonight I’m thankful for leftovers and for a family who enjoys eating them. I shudder to think what life would be like if they didn’t love them. I’m thankful for the dishes that taste better the second and third time around, but most of all, I’m thankful for my brother and the biscuits he made before he and his family headed out. They taste like home and family. Now there’s something I could enjoy every single day.

Love to all.

the best kind of tired

dear one, the best kind of tired
is the one that comes from bare feet racing across the green grass of summer
smelling faintly of the fish that swam in the lake next to you
as you splashed and played
and jumped in from the dock with your cousins
trying to see how far out you could reach
or if you could ring the intertube
that came from a tire on the farm
just as your Mamas and Daddies did years before you
in that very same spot

the best kind of tired comes from quiet drives home well after dark
each one smiling at the memories that were made
still hearing the hum of the boat or the roar of the jet ski
tummies full of the hotdogs and hamburgers Grampa cooked on the grill

the best kind of tired is crawling between the crisp white sheets
hair still wet from the quick shower you took as soon as you got home,
eyes barely able to stay open
or to whisper back when your Mama peeks in and says,
“good night sweet dreams I love you”

the best kind of tired is where the sweetest
and most treasured memories come from
the ones that keep you going back
wanting to give the same adventures to your own little ones

the best kind of tired
exhausts the body
but rejuvenates the soul

it comes from dreams coming true
and being loved

and the best kind of tired
is one of the best gifts we can ever give our children

  

Leroy’s “New” Plant

Tuesdays often find me driving down the very first driveway I ever drove on.

The one at Blackberry Flats.

Home.

Once again life and laughter and love fills the house and the yard and the spot beneath the Scotch Pine–and all up its branches as the children climb and play, hardly able to be seen from our spot sitting on the porch–now Mess Cat’s and Leroy’s porch.

When I walked up towards the house yesterday, I saw a pot with a plant in it.  For a second I thought, Oh well, isn’t that nice?  Leroy got a new plant.

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He’s got all the landscaping skills.  I love seeing what he has added and enhanced.

But this, after a second of appreciation, this one confused me.  Because–well, there’s a story there.

My Daddy often gave gifts that were out of the ordinary.  On Easter he gave us children mechanical pencils.  At Christmas he picked out music he loved and wanted us to hear.  He’d often share a book he thought we needed to read.  One Valentine’s Day he gave us daughters pretty colored tights.  The purple was especially lovely–I can still see them in the clear plastic ball.  And for Mama, he got roses.  But not in a vase.  In a pot.  With soil.  And he planted it by the back steps.

Many years later, when age and genetics slowed them both down, Mama decided to add a back porch to the house, complete with a ramp to make it easier for Daddy to go places.  Daddy nodded, and it came to be.  But before the steps were moved and the porch was built, the rose simply had to be moved.  And so it was that Leroy came in and did just that.  He moved it down to the other end of what would be the porch.

But this rose, like their love, had very, very strong roots.  And one day, as Mama and I were sitting on the swing on the porch, I noticed little leaves coming up through the crack between the floorboards.

“Mama, what do you reckon that is?”

She looked closely.  And then we looked at each other, realizing what had once been there.  “The rose!”

Now how it continued to grow after Leroy dug it up and moved it was a mystery.

But a lovely one, to be sure.

Mama cut it back a little and tried to get cuttings from it, but she allowed it to adorn the porch.  And it continued to grow.  It intrigued me.

Recently Leroy went under the porch to see if he could figure out what to do about it since spring was here and it was popping its head up through the floorboards again, despite his cutting it back.

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And this was the solution he came up with.

He’s tried cutting it back, and he thought about digging it up again, but in the end, Leroy decided to go with “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.”

And I love it.

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I mean, I really, really love this.  You know he’s a good man when he will put a hole in his porch to accommodate a living thing like that.

And that rose?  What a beautiful reminder of the strength of the love of the two who started it all.  And the spirit of new life and hope rising up after all that time in the dark and brokenness.

May we all find the strength and persistent spirit to climb up out of our own darkness towards the light and shine with all our being.

Love to all.

 

And Now, Only the Stories Remain…..and the Echoes of the Laughter

A phone call can change everything, you know?

It can change your plans, your evening, your thoughts, and your life.

I was just now sitting down to write about the bird we saw today, when I got a call that did just that.

My godfather, the man who is responsible for my existence (he introduced my parents), passed on from this world to the Next One yesterday evening.

Oh my heart.

I don’t ever remember him not being in my life.  He was like a refreshing summer breeze, blowing through and bringing all kinds of laughter and stories and sheer joy with him.

Uncle Chesh (short for Cheshire) attended college with my parents.  He was friends with both Mama and Daddy, who had never met.  He called Daddy “The Joyner.”  And he shared some of “The Joyner’s” writings with my Mama before she had even laid eyes on him.  I’m pretty sure Mama loved him before they ever met.  She was blown away by what she read, and Uncle Chesh knew it.  He arranged for their first meeting to be at the laundromat, but my memory might have failed me here.  I suppose I could skip over the part where Mama looked up (her 4’11” to his 6 feet) at Daddy at this first meeting, and said, “I believe I could fall madly in love with you, Mr. Joyner.”  But I won’t.

Because that’s how it all began.  Thanks to Uncle Chesh.

With a wedding planned, he wanted to get them something nice as a wedding gift.  And he did.  A real classy gift.

A set of dishes to start them out in their new home.  Perfect.

But this wouldn’t be an Uncle Chesh story if the backstory weren’t even better.

See, he was a college student.  So he found a way to get them dishes on his limited income.  The gas station had a deal where with every fill-up you could get another dish.

One fill-up at a time, Uncle Chesh got them that set of dishes.

I love that man.

He was right tickled with himself when, at my brother’s wedding back in ’05, he brought his gift.  A set of dishes.  This time not from the gas station, but the story goes that he did have to visit a few different Targets to get enough place settings.

Oh me.

I was the one who first told Uncle Chesh that his dear friend was sick with lymphoma.  The heartbreak in his voice was more than I could take.  He made sure he went over to visit Mama and Daddy when they had to stay in Atlanta while Daddy had his treatments.  And it was Uncle Chesh who came into town less than a week before Daddy left this world, planning a fried catfish dinner because he knew that was something that Mama and Daddy would both like.  He filled the house with laughter and regaled us with tales of his past adventures.  Some stories we knew, some we didn’t.  But it didn’t matter.  That he was there and that, one more time, the sound of his and Daddy’s laughter echoed off the walls were the greatest gifts he could have given us.

I was the one who called to tell him that Mama was gone.  He cried.  He loved them both so much, just like family because he is family.  He wanted to come to the services, just as he had with Daddy, but his own health wasn’t good.

And now–

too soon.

My heart is breaking.

But I did get one good laugh in tonight, when I realized the timing of everything.  Yesterday evening, I found myself wanting to paint–and a picture of the Cheshire Cat came to my mind for no good reason.  Only now I know it was for a very good reason.  I’d like to think that was my Uncle Chesh popping in with his big ol’ grin to say goodbye.  For now.

Because he was on his way.  To someplace better.

And then there’s this.

Yesterday, the day Uncle Chesh passed on, was my Daddy’s birthday.  And if that ain’t just like Uncle Chesh, showing up to surprise my Daddy for his birthday! Because that was his way–on many occasions over the years we’d get a call out of the blue: “Hey, I’m at the Waffle House about two hours down the road, I’ll be by there in a couple.  Can’t wait to see y’all.”

I bet that was a humdinger of a hootenanny my Daddy had for his 73rd birthday yesterday.

I just hope somebody was serving some Waffle House coffee.  Because I have a feeling they were gonna be up a while catching up, and well, it was my understanding that’s where Uncle Chesh told some of his greatest stories.  Over a cup of Waffle House’s best.

To the man who stole my heart from the moment I first met him, and without whom I would not be here–

thanks for the laughter, the hugs, the encouragement, the stories, and the love.

Until then…..

I miss you.

love always,

t

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My Uncle Chesh doing what he did best–making me laugh and sharing his love of life with all around him.

 

A Gem of a Day

Thirty-seven years ago today, this evening to be precise, our family got a big surprise.  In the days before finding out the gender before birth was a common thing, my Daddy surprised us with the news that we had a new baby brother.  Exactly what I’d wished for.

After three girls, my brother completed our family.  Not because, as friends would playfully punch Daddy on the shoulder and say, “You finally got yourself a son.”  Not because he was what my Mama predicted after having a brunette, black-haired, and blonde–a red-headed baby who would remind her of her sweet grandmother’s red locks.  No, he was born with a head full of black hair instead. He completed us because he was her Gem.  He was her baby, and he had been long-awaited and prayed for.

I remember Mama calling the house on the very phone that sits on my back porch now.  I got to talk to her while Daddy was fixing our supper.  She described my new Bubba to me, and as I looked across our small kitchen at my Daddy, I nodded.  All the things she said–head full of dark hair, big blue eyes, dark skin–described my Daddy as well.  A boy.  Our lives were about to change.

In a very good way.

When he first learned to speak, we had a game we’d play with him.  I remember that day he first learned it and how we couldn’t wait for Daddy to come home to hear his “routine.”

What does the cow say?  Moooooo

What does the dog say?  Woof woof

What does the horse say?  Neigghhhhhhh

and so on–until we asked him using his nickname he earned by NOT wanting his hair washed EVER…..

What does Buffalo Hair say?    nec’ week, nec’ week   (as in that’s when he wanted his hair washed)

and finally–

What does Gem say?    I love you

 

Melted my heart, every single time.

 

He was my rock finding walking buddy.  He’s the one I loved to bring books home to when I worked at the library all through high school–I remember him loving “Billy and Blaze” books.  He’s the reason we had the cool AJ Foyt van and race car on a trailer to tow behind.  Our Great Aunt got it for him but we all loved playing with it.  He was the one ten years behind me in school who was a great student and even greater person.  As child number four he was allowed to do things that I was not–like running around barefooted in the middle of winter (Daddy–“he’ll come in when his feet get cold”) and not using a top sheet on his bed because he tossed and turned so much it just wasn’t worth trying to keep it on.  He didn’t have to eat the crust on chicken pot pies because of the alleged headaches it gave him *ahem*, and he’s known for being short and succinct with his words–like the time he was supposed to introduce himself at a televised Quiz Bowl competition.  He said his name and “Senior” and that was it.  We still laugh over that one.

The State of Georgia something or other once had a thing where you sent in a letter nominating your child as an All Star something, and they would send you a Georgia All Star shirt for each one.  I don’t remember what Mama said about the rest of us, but Bubba?  He was her All Star Fire Ant Agitator.  No antbed existed in the yard at Blackberry Flats that didn’t have two or three sticks poking up out of it.  All the work of my baby brother.

When I returned home from college and later in life, he delighted, night owl that he is, in keeping me up late, having conversations that were good and fun and meaningful until I was dropping off and talking gibberish.  I can still hear his laughter as he’d leave my room–mission accomplished.

He’s the uncle who is the cool one because he taught all the cousins to play “Colored Ribbons.”  He sneaks up and attacks when they least expect it, and the children all adore him.  When he first became an uncle, he used to bring us food from Nu-Way on Friday afternoons.  We’d catch up on life and he learned how to love and play with a baby at the ripe old age of 18.  From those days to this past August, filled with soccer games and playing chase and sneak attacks, he is adored by all of the children.  And Miss Sophie.  She literally moped for a few days after he left from his visit in August.  Dogs and children adore him–is there any better testimony to his character?

As a child he taught me about the joy in seeing life from a different point of view.  And he’s still doing that.  He has taught me about grace and how to handle hard times and we talk about hard things like prayer and where the people we love go after they leave this earth.  We also talk about this life as parents and the joy and fun, worry and difficulties that can come with all of that.  We share stories and ask each other advice, and we try to lift each other up.  And while we may not often talk about it, we walk together in this place of missing the ones who raised us so very much.

Tonight I give thanks for one of the best gifts my parents gave me and the world.  My Bubba, our Gem.  Poor guy–he had the equivalent of four females raising him.  He survived us putting him in the purple baby doll stroller that had springs on it.  When we put him in it, it went almost to the ground.  When we tried to lift him out, it came up with him, making it almost impossible to extricate him.  It took some doing to get him out of there without Mama finding out.  He deftly handled being our “go-fer” (go see if we can watch tv for example) by throwing us under the bus when Daddy asked him had we put him up to it.  (“Yes, Daddy, they want to watch it.  I don’t.”)

He’s a thinker and a world changer with a heart as big as the world.   I am doggone tickled that he’s one of mine, and I feel even more fortunate to call him my friend.

Love you, Bubba.  Happy Birthday!  And as Mama would say, Happy Everyday!

 

A Literary Dish

My brother Bubba is in town.  This evening after a great time over at Blackberry Flats with Mess Cat and Leroy (who cooked a fantastic meal by the way), he and I sat down to go through some boxes that have been waiting for him to look through and make decisions about.

Of Mama and Daddy’s stuff.

Oh y’all.

We laughed over stories of old teachers.  We were quiet as we read through books from our childhood.  We unwrapped mugs and dishes and things that Mess Cat had tenderly wrapped and boxed months ago.  Bubba and I read inscriptions and discovered that the old dictionary we grew up with was given to Daddy when he was sixteen years old.  Good stuff, y’all.  Really good.

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Halfway through a box, I handed this book to Bubba to decide if he wanted it.  I went back to digging in the box.  Then I heard the unmistakable sound of Bubba getting tickled about something.  That right there.  You can’t help but join in.  Mirth and joy and all kinds of delightful.  All mixed together.

I looked over my glasses at him.  Really?  What book was he looking at?  Surely not the one I’d just handed him.  I mean, I don’t know much about the author, but I was pretty sure it wasn’t a comedy.

“What are you doing?” I asked him.

He laughed some more.  Then he told me he was pretty sure the book was something of a gag gift from Daddy to Mama.  A glance inside the front cover showed it once belonged to a Jack Reeves and that it was 50 cents in a used book sale.  Yep.  Sounds about right.

Bubba told me the story of how one night Mama made sausage rice for supper.  She put a plate of it in front of Daddy and said, “It’s not much, but we’ll call it a meal.”  To which Daddy replied, “Zola?”

Ba dum bump.

After that whenever Mama made sausage rice she called it “Zola.”  And a new dish was born and named.

We are pretty sure that no one ever read the book, but if anyone would have, it would have been my Daddy.  He was an eclectic reader and a lover of words and thoughts.

I love this story, and I love having people to share these stories with.  I am tickled to hear this family lore that happened after I had moved out of the house.  What a gift that my brother was there to see it unfold, remembered it, and shared it with me tonight.  He’s even pretty sure he found the book at the Old Book Sale and showed it to Daddy, who of course had to get it for Mama.

As for the book, it will go on my classics shelf.  Because the story behind it is definitely classic Mama and Daddy.  And now I have a new memory to recall when I see it–the laughter of this night with my brother, the one in which we took on a task that could have been more painful than it was but ended up in us rolling with fits of laughter.

And as if all that weren’t enough, now I am craving me some Zola.

Wishing you all a good story that brings a smile to your face.

Love to all.

 

**Credit and many thanks to Bubba for not only the story but also the title of this post.  🙂

 

Mama and the Little Green Frog

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This little guy was waiting on me outside the other day. He made me smile. So cute. But I couldn’t get too close. I just wouldn’t. He was precious but those things can jump, did you know?
Family lore has it that one evening many years ago (I think it’s been 41), my Mama, who was pregnant with Mess Cat, was taking a shower in our little bathroom at the old house. The bathroom had a window over the shower which they cracked sometimes for ventilation. This particular evening Mama had a guest in the shower. A little green guy just like this one. He was camouflaged by the greenery outside the window until…..
he jumped in on top of Mama.
Landed right on her.
Bless her.
She did what anyone would do–screamed and ran out of the shower as fast as she could, never mind her wet and unclothed state. I remember standing in the doorway of her dark bedroom, the light from the hall sweeping across the bed where she lay sobbing. I was four, and all I remember thinking is “Poor Mama. My poor little Mama.”

I was thinking about that when I saw this guy for two reasons.
Number one, I was not going to put myself in the jump zone. Zoom on the camera works just fine thank you very much.
Number two, I wondered at how, despite this frog story, the frog became Mama’s totem. We gave her all kinds of frogs over the years. I even made her a fleece blanket covered in rainbow frogs. And she LOVED IT. I have no idea. Maybe it’s because she was a good sport? And it just caught on?
Maybe. Because she was definitely a good sport.
It’s funny, isn’t it? The things that just are and you never think to question it. Until one day you do and you find the answers are gone with those you love.
Tonight I’m thankful for all those years Mama received our frog gifts and loved them and put them on display or used them and said they made her “very hoppy.” Yeah, not only was she a good sport she was also very punny.

Wishing you a day filled with many hoppy moments. Love to all.