Childhood Memories of Momma

I was sewing this morning and as I was clipping stray threads and pausing to realign seam edges and move pins out of the way, I remembered the sounds of my mother doing the same thing, sitting at the sewing machine using the foot pedal to control the cadence of the whir of the needle as it moved along the path of fabric she was guiding between her hands. She made great dresses and costumes for my sister and I as we grew up, fitting them perfectly to us. And she taught me how to sew, enough so that I can look at a schematic and spool a bobbin and troubleshoot why my needle isn’t pulling thread.

I was cooking this afternoon and as I threw some things in a skillet and started them sizzling, I remember my mother working to prepare us good food every day, day in and day out. We rarely ate out when I was a child. I say that, and you might think, oh, you mean, at a fancy restaurant. No, we might have gone to a Burger King once a month and that counted as the time we ate out that month. Now, part of that is because momma was and continues to be a master chef, part of it was because of tight budgets and it is way cheaper to cook at home than let someone else prepare your food, and part of it is because for a time there, the closest restaurant worth eating at was thirty minutes away. (Not much unlike our current situation.)

I was praying with my daughter last night and as I joined her in her jubilant shout out of names of people she loves, I remember the nights we gathered to pray using the Pockets prayer guide. We began to pray each night, never a memorized prayer, but a prayer that encompassed more than our selves or our situation. Later, as we grew up, we would learn to keep a prayer journal and be the first to volunteer to pray out loud or read scripture in our Sunday School classes. Much of that has to do with how my mother and father raised us to pray with confidence when we were little. So I’m starting my daughter on a similar path; now she asks to pray each night at bedtime.

I was singing with my daughter in the car on the way to preschool today and as we sang “Oh-oh” and “Horse” and “Bear” (her titles, not the proper names), I remembered my mother singing with us as we rode in the car. First we started on silly songs, and we still love and know some of those silly songs about camels and ghosts and car rides, and later we learned songs together that we could sing in church, with motions and everything. I remember the silly songs she taught our girl scout troop, leading us in campfire songs about flannel sheets and singing our prayers over meals.

Screen Shot 2017-12-14 at 3.10.58 pI love that I have carried lessons that my mother taught through her presence and moving through her world so that I can be a good mother to my daughter (soon to be daughters). I love that I can call her and check a gut feeling that I am having and know that my decision is on the right path. I love that I can share the love that I get from my mother with my family and others around me. I love my momma.

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Childhood Neighborhood

Lancaster Drive. Ahh, such memories. I remember moving in to our new house, sitting on carpet remnants as mom and dad finished supervising renovations so that we could move out of our rental on Devonshire. (Fingers!)

There was an elementary school just down the road where we went to play on the playground, gliding down the hot silver slide in the summertime, watching the cracks in the mud as we crossed the dried puddles back to the shortcut through the woods. We went to the flagpole at the school once a week to pick up the girls in our Scout Troop so we could go back to the house for our Tuesday meeting.

Tadpoles grew in the gutter puddles after heavy rains and I’m pretty sure I collected a few to see how they would grow. I don’t remember them growing.

An ice cream truck blared it’s music down our road and the idiot driving stopped to ask if I wanted any treats, while I covered my ears hoping he would go away and pass me as fast as possible.

I ran away down to the creek once, because I was so angry as only a nine year old can get, but made sure I packed peanut butter cheese crackers and my favorite doll since I was going to be away forever.

Shortly after we moved in, a family bought the house five houses down and diagonally across from us, and we found our friends in the Fishers. There was a girl for my sister to play with, and a boy just my age for me to run around with. Owen was my first crush, and I never quite got over my love of gangly tall boys. (My husband became one after we were married for a year… extra treats.) They had a pool, so we got to swim during the summer. Owen defended us against the boy next door, Randy, who stole our dolls and wouldn’t give them back.

Dad and Granddaddy built a deck up on the ridge behind our house and strung it with happy lights so we could play outside and see across our whole subdivision. They got it done just in time to celebrate Norris and Janet’s sixtieth birthday, when we had all their friends over to wish them well.

I got my first own room in that house, looking out my window at the tree in our front yard, its trunk divided into three main parts as it stood and guarded the hill. I also got my first camera, where I took artistic photos of the macadam driveway and that tree.

I don’t much remember many other folks who lived around us, either in good ways or bad, though our left door neighbor was friendly even though she had two angry German Shepherds. I was deathly afraid of dogs, and so we didn’t go up to her house very often. We even stayed away from her fence. She also was the host of our first experience with a house fire; she tried to run pillows in her dryer, and they caught flame. Her house was ok afterwards, but we could see the flame from the far end of our hallway.  I remember my sister telling me she wanted to stay as far from the flame as possible, so we huddled there until mom came to find us and take us outside, just in case.

It is the house I learned independence in. I hit the beginning stages of puberty there. It is the only house I’ve lived in that my family owned. It is the only house I miss.

Memories and Favorites

I absolutely love to have lime in my drinks. Four of my favorite drinks feature lime either as the main flavor or as the sole flavor. Am I at a Mexican restaurant? Agua con limon verde, por favor. Am I out at a cocktail bar? A sweet gin gimlet is for me. Out on vacation? Mojitos. Am I looking for something refreshing at home in the middle of the day? Splash some lime juice in a La Croix water and call it a win.

Honestly, I love putting lime in everything from chicken noodle soup to chili, over an asian salad or drizzled over fresh steamed broccoli. It really is a favorite.

I’m not exactly sure when I started loving lime in everything. I remember the first time I had lime in chicken soup was in the Bahamas on our mission trip to Eluthra, when our host served us the soup she had cooked that afternoon and showed us that we could add lime juice to give it a pep. While I was at divinity school, and every Sunday a group of us went to Torrerro’s after church for lunch, I quickly learned that you had ask for lime En Español in order to not just get a lemon with your water. I think I’d tried mojitos before, but one holiday I took with my parents down at Universal Studios, we ordered a pitcher of mojitos to share… and mom and I loved that we could take the boat back to our hotel. My sister first introduced me to gin gimlets while she was working at a swanky Atlanta restaurant, and my friend Tom offered excellent advice on what kind of gin to buy so that I could make them for my husband and myself at our most recent New Year’s celebration.

It’s funny to me how some foods always remind me of particular times that I had that food. I tie my memories to food and drink the way some people use photographs to remember moments. I have a deep visceral reaction to some very seemingly mundane dishes. It’s one of the reasons that Thanksgiving is so important to me, and why I made a Chocolate Chip Pie for my embassy hosts the year I was in Peace Corps. I needed something deeply familiar in a space that was decidedly unfamiliar. (A special gift I received that year was my host letting me use their phone to call home… and knowing my grandparents’ number by heart so I could call and talk to the whole family around the table as they gathered eight thousand miles away.)

I keep trying new foods and drinks, because I never know what new memories I will tie to the new things I’ve tried. And I never know what my new favorite will be.

Experienced Moving

I’ve moved a lot. I change houses like some people change favorite jeans. I know how to set up a kitchen in less than a week, and make a new house feel like a home I’ve lived in for years. 

Moving is not all about houses. It is also about leaving the familiar and moving to the unknown. It’s about changing out communities, finding new friends, and learning new places. It’s about losing and gaining things at the same time. 

My favorite moving day story is from when I was sixteen. We were leaving a place we had been for four years that we didn’t really ever feel we could call home. There are various reasons for that, most of them are not my story to tell, but for my own part I was not leaving any friends my age behind. I was glad to be leaving. 

Our driveway was black sand that ingrained itself in the carpet and any other surface it came into contact with. Each time I got into the family van, I would snap my feet together to shake the sand off my feet so that the sand transfer would be as minimal as possible. When I got in the car that final morning, I intentionally did not shake the sand off my feet, because I had run across the passage in Matthew 10 where Jesus sends out his disciples to preach about the Kingdom of Heaven. In verse 14, Jesus tells his disciples to shake the dust from their feet if they do not find welcome or listening ears. I didn’t shake the sand off my feet because I refused to say that the blessing of God’s peace was not present in that place, even if I hadn’t encountered peace while I was there. 

On the last day when we were packed up and the house was clean and empty, we went to have breakfast with a couple that were friends with our family. They pulled out all the stops. Biscuits, eggs, sausage, and this amazing concoction of blueberries with sour cream and brown sugar. Don’t knock it until you try it. June is prime blueberry season in south Georgia. That breakfast was the final good memory to have in a place that didn’t have many other good memories. 

Some moves are like that, a time to leave bad memories behind and move forward into new experiences. Some moves are heartbreaking, leaving behind longtime friends and loved spaces for the unknown. Some moves happen because of graduation or getting a new job or moving closer to family. 

I imagine that my perspective on moving is different than most folks, because I grew up expecting to move, and I chose to work in a profession that expects me to move. I never expected to be in the same place for a very long time. I always wonder where the next place we will live will be, even if that new place and new move is a long ways off. It means that my roots don’t get very deep. But it also means that I am always looking to learn something new about the people I meet. I become more curious each time I find somewhere new. I always know that the blessings of God are present even if I don’t yet know where to look. 

Love is what you do and what you say

Today is my Grandmomma Janet’s birthday. I’ve had three grandmothers, each very different. Now, only one is still living, Grammy Sara down in Florida. The third was the first one we lost, Sue-Sue. Each of my grandmothers had their own special name. They had their own special way of being. They have their own special impact on my life.

Grandmomma Janet loved to share love with people. She went out of her way to care for others. She set up crafts for the shut-in ministry at her church, she made pear preserves every single year that she could, she hosted our family for Thanksgivings and Christmases and Easters when we lived close enough. I learned table etiquette from her influence. (You cannot eat your dessert until the person serving everyone has been able to sit down and eat their first bite.) I learned that love is just as important by what you do as what you say. She was an artist, though she never quite claimed it. She loved daffodils.

Daffodils
Dancing in the wind

 

My grandmother looms larger than my grandfather, though I have memories of him as well. Granddaddy Norris still loves to work with his hands and build things out of wood. He loves cookies of all shapes and sizes. He always fell asleep while we were watching TV, unless he was watching Jeopardy, because he had to make sure they got the answers and the questions right. He loved to travel with Grandmomma Janet, they made sure that they took each of their grandchildren on at least one trip with them, to share that love.

Memories are funny things. We remember people from different times in our lives, and from different times in theirs. We put the memories together to build the composite of who we loved and who we remember. Some memories fade and some become crystalline, clearer with each year that goes by. It is important to forgive hurts and angry words, but it is also important to remember that the people we love and look up to are as imperfect as we are. Remembering loved ones as whole persons allows us to have grace for the people in our lives now. Norris and Janet at Wedding