Back then there was no internet. One could not learn any skill or access any recipe she wanted with the click of a mouse. No, instead I was given a great gift of many hours spent in her kitchen gleaning as she had done from the generations before her. Little did I know then that our time of tutoring would be so short. We would lose her to cancer in 1999 with my girls never having known her.
Through out the summer the girls and I do a lot of canning. The apple pie filling is always my favorite. This year, as we were placing the last batch of jars in the cooker, Bethany pushed back a strand of hair from her face and looking around exclaimed "This kitchen will never recover from this. I think this is the messiest batch yet!" The three of us had a good laugh and sat to take a break. On the table lay the recipe for our pie filling. Grace leaned over and picked it up... "Momma, your recipe is so old and tattered, you could recopy it you know, and make it look better." I slowly took it from her, staring at the familiar handwriting, and instantly the tears welled.
For in my hand I held Great Grandma Walters recipe, copied in Grandma Mabel's handwriting and scarred from 22 years of use in my family. In my hand I held a bridge for several generations of beautiful women that never had the privilege of meeting each other. The recipe bore my history as well... There was the year I decided 10 cups of water took entirely too long to thicken and changed it to seven, only to find that those gals knew what they were doing and I was left scrubbing thick, sticky goo out of the bottom of my pan... and also the year when I was chasing four tiny boys around my kitchen and somehow in the process I set the recipe too close to the burner, nearly burning it to ashes.... It also held the splatters from years past as the chubby fingers of my little girls now graceful and skilled would handle the card leaving behind smears of love and smudges of memories.
No.. I shook my head. "Somethings are meant to be kept, Gracie." But looking at it I knew she was right. The writing was fading. The fold tearing apart.
After all, Shell, we are talking about a piece of paper. Come on lady!
So.. today, I took my daughters hands, I told them of the lives of these two women, we walked across that bridge and then we made it our own.
I now have two cards. A crisp fresh card tucked in the box right next to my old one. Both written by beautiful ladies who share the same middle name. And just maybe, years from now, if the Lord wills that I should live. I will open my recipe box and as I pull out a tattered old recipe, the one bearing those memories that are yet to come, perhaps my granddaughter will say "Granny, this old card is so tattered why don't you recopy it and make it look better?" After I share with her the history of all the beautiful women of her past, I will reach in my desk drawer, pull out a fresh crisp card and ask her to do just that.