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Too many writing entries to chose from this year, so I'm featuring some Honorable Mention stories in my column.
Today I'd like to introduce you to Judy Simmons, who's been a reader at the book club and a fan for eight years. Judy says, "I've never been much of a writer, although I've authored two books, "how-to" books that didn't require an ability to write (just the ability to write instructions). I'm very sentimental and have been using family memorabilia in my fiber art for years. I also had the dearest, happiest mother in the world and the two ideas just worked itself into such a simple story, but one that touched my heart.
This contest was the greatest fun; I just loved the chance to share this story with someone--the icing on the cake--that so many will read it, and I hope reflect back on some wonderful, simple memories of their family."
Well done, Judy. Thanks for entering this year's Write a DearReader Contest.
Years ago, my daughter went to graduate school for multi-cultural education. One of her assignments was to write a paper revolving around different cultures and customs. After much thought, she wrote about--of all things--my mother's Thanksgiving stuffing! I was surprised to think that something this insignificant could be a worthy topic, but as I read her thoughts, my eyes got teary. It really wasn't about the stuffing--it was so much more.
When I think of my mother making stuffing and the hours she put into chopping, mixing, tasting, it was truly a labor of love. I can also state without partiality that my mother's stuffing was the best. I'm not sure everyone reading this would agree, but I remember it well, how delicious it tasted and the biggest deal to have enough for leftovers.
While the stuffing was amazing, what really tickles my mind is the memory of watching my mother in the kitchen--dancing around with her forks and basters, singing silly songs and being in the happiest of moods. She was excited, our small but entire family was gathering on this day, celebrating our life together and the many blessings we shared. It wasn't the stuffing; it was so much more.
In our family, it was the custom for my mother and only her to make the stuffing. My mom died 25 years ago from breast cancer; it was the week before Thanksgiving. According to my daughter, the task fell upon me. I was crowned the official maker of Thanksgiving stuffing--a crown I didn't want and probably the worst Thanksgiving I can remember. But it was the holidays and even though there were only the four of us, I needed to hang in there for my kids. So I made a turkey and the stuffing--my mother's job. I remember crying so hard....saying "I can't do this, I don't have a clue how to make stuffing," but it really wasn't about the stuffing; I was missing my mom. I was missing the way she laughed and danced her way through the kitchen, her smiles and spontaneous hugs; I wanted her with me.
As I look back I realize how family recipes are not just words on a page, creating something yummy to eat, but a way of showing love, passing down treasured memories and connecting to generations from the past. At some point in time, I somehow inherited my grandmother's cookbook--her version and the best kind of cookbook I know--recipes from friends and family, church suppers and Sunday newspaper clippings. They were kept in a little green binder, every one tried and true, and best of all written in her own hand.
I think I cherish this little cookbook more than any fancy cookbook I own; I love to see her writing, her doodles and scribbles.
I love her comments and changes to accommodate the family.
To this end, I have loved using them in my quilts. Being a fiber artist, I have been able to make so many recipes including my mother's stuffing into silk screens. It thrills my heart to think of my mom and grandmother and their much loved recipes. I wonder if they ever thought their writing would be in a quilt someday--a quilt made some 80 years later.
As I look at their writing on these quilts, I run my fingers over the words and think of them. I love using their words and having a way to use their recipes in my art; I love every one, I use every one--the words add so much. But more than that, I love the memories they conjure up, the laughs, the singing, the wonderful hugs. It's a way of connecting with my past--to pull a little piece of it into present day--to say--I Remember.
Honorable Mention, 2016 Write a DearReader Contest
Thanks for reading with me. It's so good to read with friends.
* This month's Penguin Classics book is THE CHARTERHOUSE OF PARMA, by Stendhal. Start reading now and be sure to enter the drawing for your chance to win a Penguin tote bag: http://www.supportlibrary.com/bc/v.cfm?L=drclassqqxqR1AFEAEE9442&c=CLASSICS