Friday, December 24, 2010

Grandmothe's Recipe

My Mother called a few weeks ago and asked if I had a cookbook from a family reunion. After a few minutes of thinking, I knew exactly where it was sitting, and went home and put my hands right on it.

Flipping through the cookbook was a nice experience in reminiscing. A cousin had put in a recipe from our mutual grandmother, I had put in a recipe from the mother of a childhood friend, and some of the names of the recipe donors just made me smile.

And then they made me do more than that. I resolved to cook. Or to bake. Or to, at the very least, try.

This weekend, we tried the first recipe from the book. I discovered that my Mom had Grandmother's poundcake recipe. The recipe. The one. Yes, that recipe.

So this weekend, standing in MyFella's kitchen, I gathered up all the ingredients. I pre measured for convenience. I turned the oven on. I sprayed the pan.

And then I said, "What does it mean to 'cream the margarine and sugar'? I had no idea. I was only on step one and was already lost! Luckily I was attempting this at MyFella's house, and about 20 minutes later, the two of us had a beautiful cake batter that was pouring into a loaf pan. And about 45 minutes later, out came the most delicious, from scratch pound cake.

Perfect. On my (our) first try.

Just like Grandmother's.

There was a ten year old boy buried deep inside me who was over joyed.


Her name was Grandmother. I couldn’t tell you why it was Grandmother, and not something more colloquial like Grandmaw or Nanny. We had these, too. Maybe hers was in deference to her more mature years. Or maybe it was what my father had called her. It was said with much love and affection.

Grandfather had died when I was young. There is a picture of me with him, though I don’t recall him. I only recall her telling a couple of stories about him. One was that, while she lived with her in-laws, who had said they could use the wood from a barn to build their own home, she got tired of waiting for him to build it. So one day, she went out to the barn and started tearing the wood apart herself. And that was my Grandmother.

She had raised my father, though his mother would tell us different. Regardless of who had raised him, he was raised in a farm house in a county in Mississippi. When I was growing up, the farm house was still the place that my great Grandmother lived.

There was a gravel driveway, and iron gates once painted silver with a pattern of a wagon wheel in them. On her back porch was a rope and pulley system that went down to a well beneath the house to pull up water. The front porch held a rocker and a swing. She was known to sit on the rocker for hours, and we loved the swing.

It’s hard to separate memories of her from memories of her home. The two are entwined together like one individual. Her bedroom had a fireplace for warmth, an oscilating fan for coolness, a large desk and the door to the bathroom. Two other bedrooms held an assortment of cedar closets and beds and chests with amazing things in them. The kitchen had a pie safe and a gas stove. The dining room held her refridgerator and a large round table. And on this table, when we could come to visit, was often a freshly baked pound cake.

This place, this woman, and her home, is the place where my love of pound cakes began. And most likely, I love them simply for the sheer memories of her that can come rushing back with the taste. I can feel the formica on the table, and the ceramic pitcher in which she kept milk. I smell the fragrance of wood from her fireplace. Or feel the wood on the cedar closets. With that taste, I can hear the crunch of gravel under my feet and see her in her rocker, watching the king snakes in her yard.

There was a tree stump in the back yard. Dad told us he’s watched her chop off many a chicken’s neck on that tree stump. I can see her walk past it to hang laundry on the line. I can see her braids wrapped around her head. Sometimes I look at the shade of grey my hair is becoming, and I think it is distinctly the same shade as hers.

There were an assortment of buildings on her land, once a well used farm of some type. There was a building Dad called a smokehouse, and one that was clearly a barn. And far in the back was a pond that Dad said had once held fish.

Grandmother is gone now. She lived until she was almost 100, and most of it she lived in that home. She spent a few years in a nursing home, one my Mother went to great effort to get her into because it was the best in the area. I did my best as a grandson to write her often, and visit her when I could, so that her time there would at least be dotted with moments. She had other descendants, too, from her son. But I don’t know them or their relationship with her. But that nursing home is never where I think of her. I think of her in that farm house. I think of her in the rocker on her porch watching the busy traffic go by. I think of her hanging laundry on the line. And I think of the sights and fragrances in that home; the smells of firewood and cedar and linens long since not used.

Sometimes as I drive down I-55 through Mississippi, I see the exit to the country church where she and Grandfather are buried. The church is surprisingly large, given the rural area it seems to be in. I stop for a few minutes and leave the flowers I thought to bring, and throw away the ones that have stayed in the vase since my last drive through the area.

MyFella was with me once, and a dark cloud blew up and a mighty wind came. I tried not to think on it, give it any credence, that there was a storm when I took my boyfriend, my partner, with me. She was an old school Baptist Christian. She would have loved me, in spite of.

Pound cake on a formica table top, the smell of firewood, the crunch of gravel under foot, and the sound of traffic through an old screen door.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

I knew that I would like her

when she told me she was sitting right next to him, and couldn't say it, so she texted him, "I'm pregnant."