Mama’s Whimsical Stories
February 25, 2014
Through the years of many nightly phone conversations with my mother I’ve heard some wild and crazy stories. She may not remember where she laid her keys last but she never forgets her stories of growing up.
My favorite is about the alligator named Clyde. After she moved back to the farm with her father she took a job as a bartender at the Holiday Inn. She’s always had the gift of gab – isn’t that a true Southern trait – storytelling! As she worked the bar telling stories she saved this one for whomever was the most bothersome.
My favorite story begins…”did I ever tell you about Clyde the alligator?” I vaguely remembered, but she began telling me the whole story. “When I worked at the Holiday Inn I told the men this story, especially the ones who tried to ask me out. I told them that I had a pet alligator named Clyde who lived in the pond on the farm – and how Clyde loved when men came to visit. There were many who really believed this tall tale! Whenever someone tried to ask me out and wanted to come to the farm, I’d say, “sure come on down, we’ll walk out to the pond and I’ll show you Clyde – then when you put your arms around me you’ll hear a big thump, and I’ll walk away saying, “another man gone!” That story of what Clyde did to my dates who dared come to the farm was my favorite; how I came up with that story I have no idea. Often in conversation as I served drinks the guys would ask, “how’s Clyde doing?” And if someone new walked in, they loved to egg me on into telling the tale – to see who would bite.”
My mother had quite the story telling in her from a young girl as she went to school and convinced her teachers of this one. She told them that she was really adopted and how her father found her as a baby in a capsule in the woods on the back forty. If she told this tale today, the teachers would have the DCYS at their door. She really insisted that she was from another world – quite the imagination she had in dreaming up these stories.
Besides the story telling, she was quite inventive in amusing herself all alone on the farm. One of her activities involved creating a ring of circled bricks to hold her fighting ants – red against black. If your from the South, you know what red ants are. She’d place a bench across the area and lay overhead to watch them battle each other.
These stories are from a journal I write called Conversations with Mama.They are from my many scribbles on paper as we chat nightly. Reading back through her musings and family history stories never ceases to entertain me – they are treasures that might have been forgotten if I hadn’t took the time to write them down.
February 23, 2014
My favorite cookie is from my Christmas collection I make once a year – Cherry Winks. It’s not a cookie I grew up eating as I have no memory of my mother baking cookies. She was not a sweet baker except for her famous Lemon Pie; I am craving one now that it’s popped in my mind. Her expertise was just Southern cooking. There is no better fried chicken and home-made biscuits than my mama’s anywhere! But back to cookies…
When I married Steve and moved to Connecticut, after having lived in Georgia all my life, I discovered all about baking cookies. Every occasion they baked cookies and I soon acquired a box of over-flowing of recipes.
Through the years there has been one cookie that stuck with me, and as I bake less and less, its become my one left to bake at Christmas – for myself; sometimes I share with my daughter:) Nothing better than a cup of coffee and a few Cherry Winks to dunk. Yes I’m a Dunker!
My husband brought home a small cookbook the other night he found in his mother’s basement. He thought I’d enjoy looking through it as it was produced by the Kellogg company; probably one of those send-a-way for type deals. Years ago you saved box tops or UPC’s from the box and they in return would send you a free cookbook of their recipes. I don’t seem to see those offers anymore.
As I flipped through the pages I noticed how smooth and glossy the paper was. I laughed at some of the recipe names like Martha Washington Pie and the side-bar perforated coupons for 7 cents they offered for their Kellogg products. By the way, all the coupons were still intact so that told me my mother in law hadn’t been a coupon clipper!
I wondered if she had baked any of these recipes, but the smooth touch of the pages told me she probably hadn’t. I soon answered my question on one of the last few pages I turned. My eyes quickly caught the title – Cherry Winks – on the top of page 55. I now know from where her recipe came from. The book showed wear and creases of being folded several times – and you know the feel of your cookbook page when you have it too close to your mixing bowl! My personal cookbook, that my daughter has laid claim to, wears all my recipes DNA on them. She says it adds character:) Cherry Wink DNA is definitely all over this page!
Just the mention of a bath had my 20 month old granddaughter McKinley plopping down on the floor, pulling shoes and socks off. That was easy! Next was the run to gather up as much as her little arms could carry to the bathroom – what’s a bath without toys!
She’s amazing at how she tries and maneuvers to undress, anxiously waiting to go in the tub. Saying no to a bath is never in her vocabulary – her mother could just spell the word and it’d send her running to the bathroom.
Pop was put in charge of water temperature and decided to make it a bubble bath. She danced around as she watched the bubbles appear under the streaming water – higher and higher.
Pop plunked her in the bath among the mounding bubbles and you now saw the bubbles through her eyes – magical water toys! Her little fingers gently began touching them as she said a new word – bubbles. There were many bubbles in that tub!
And what was her word when I said “it’s time to get out.” A word she tells you with no hesitation – No!
It’s amazing as I watch my grandchildren grow, each and every one with a different personality. As a parent you don’t have the time or wisdom to sometimes enjoy just the simple things, such as a bubble bath.
Ipacked it securely in my suitcase, and said a prayer for it to arrive safely. Usually my suitcases seem to be inspected as I carry the strangest things home from Ga. It’s not unusual for me to have five pounds of flour, bags of peanuts, bricks, rocks, even frozen BBQ and stew. It arrived intact! My husband was shocked to see that large pan emerge from my suitcase! It measured about 17 inches across and weighed over 20 pounds! I think the size is what attracted me to buy it.
I have two pans my mom gave me years ago and we have my mother in law’s pans that she always cooked in until she bought a non-stick pan. One day he found them hanging on a nail in the garage; he brought them home!
This past year I discovered a few cast iron Facebook groups; they revived my interest in cooking with cast iron pans again. I soon became interested in buying more pieces and it wasn’t long before my husband became interested and he learned how to clean them. He set up a vinegar and lye bath in the shed outside and began cleaning our pans; most afternoons I’d find him outside scrubbing away. It’s quite a process from the cleaning to the seasoning in the oven. It was amazing to see grimy, gooey pans turn into brand new looking pans. That’s the one neat thing about cast iron, they transform back into their original new state after cleaning.
Every weekend had us scouring the tag sale ads and flea markets. After a few weeks of finding nothing at tag sales, I finally spotted a lonely cast iron skillet lying on the ground. It was quite gooey looking but I picked it up to ask the price – trying to not show how excited I was. I found the pan to be very light in weight and quickly thought that wasn’t a good sign – wasn’t cast iron supposed to be heavy? Boy was I uninformed! When they told me the price was 5 dollars, I told my husband that I didn’t think it was any good so I laid it down. What was I thinking? I didn’t even offer a haggling price! I didn’t have the knowledge then that I have now or I would have thrown the five dollars at them and ran to the car with that grungy light pan! Every time we’re near that street now I often think I wish I’d bought that pan or just know who made it. The older cast iron skillets are lighter than the ones made today that feel like boat anchors! I never found another pan all summer at tag sales!
We soon branched out to flea markets and began hauling cast iron home every weekend. It’s now become quite an obsession to have one, two or three of every pan we see in the books. Hubby enjoys the aspect that he can restore them to their original condition. The hunt has taken us all over our state and led us to see places we never knew existed in our small state of Connecticut. I’ve documented our travels with hundreds of photographs, but I’ve enjoyed the time spent with my husband the most. As the weekend approaches he usually asks “where are we going?” To stay home is unthinkable! We each try to be the first one to spot the pans, and if one of us misses it, the other quickly says “look what you missed!”
Displaying cast iron is difficult, but we’ve become quite creative at it. When and if the kids discover all we have, we are in trouble, but whatever happens, we’ve had the time of our life hunting for cast iron!
When was the last time you received a handwritten letter in your mailbox? And I’m not talking about your email mailbox!
I have always been a letter writer. When I was a teenager I had several pen pals. In fact I had 7 pen pals in Hawaii! Some of their letters to me are still glued today to the pages of my scrapbooks. A few years ago after signing up with Facebook I decided to see if I could track down a couple of the girls, and after much searching I received a message back from one. She remembered me and we have now become friends on Facebook.
Even during the Vietnam War I became pen pals with a boy and he wrote quite more in the letters than a teenager would have. But he was lonely and looking for a girlfriend. He even came to visit when he returned back to the states.
In my family research, I wrote many letters to people asking for information and pictures and patiently waited for their responses. And it was always so exciting to find a letter waiting in the mailbox.
One of the most interesting letters I ever received was when I was contacted by a 90-plus age woman who wrote me about my Civil War grandfather. I was blown away, knowing that there was someone living that actually knew a Civil War Veteran. She wrote very descriptive letters about his death, funeral and even down to who built his coffin. She, at a very young age even helped drape the black satin cloth inside on top of the piled high cotton. This was the type of letter you wanted to share with someone – right away. But often there’s no one in the house that’s as excited as you.
The last letter I’ve had written to me was from a women in Greene County, Ga. who wrote me after reading an editorial I’d written in the paper. She wrote me several letters detailing life in her early years and of the area in which I had questioned.
I truly treasure my letters written to me and have saved many of them. Now I ask you, when did you last write a letter to someone? Sit down and surprise someone with that letter. Letter writing is truly a lost art due to our computer era of “you’ve got mail.”