Friday, January 13, 2017

Weekend Wit 17

Of Childhood
Childhood has its own magic, adults don't have to contrive to make it magical.

Your kids need you to be a decent person, more than they need you to take them to Disney.

Of Marriage
Years ago my husband worked with an old brick layer. My husband felt the need to quote John this morning, "You marry a woman and she will make you willing to jump through fire wearing gasoline underwear."

Of the State of the Heart
Lord, give me thick skin and a soft heart, because my natural tendency is to have thin skin and a hardened heart.

Of Work
Success comes through work and a lot of it.  When you see a finished product, don't think I wish I could be that lucky.  Luck has little do with it.  There are no short cuts, easy money or big breaks. Those are the thoughts of someone who has never spent grinding hours, days, weeks and yes even years trying to achieve something without the promise that success will ever come.

Of Our Strange Culture
If are you one of those in our selfish minded culture that only takes and struggles to give, then happiness will be an elusive quality in your life.

I think that one reason that we are so hate filled and so violent is that we have simply forgotten to look one another in the eyes where we might glimpse the soul and see the humanity of another.

Of Hope
If you are one of the ones in life who has found forgiveness, hope and restoration,  then it is your job to offer the same to those who cross your path.  

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Snow Days

I have always lived  in the South.  Our winters are often interspersed with some warm sunny days thrown smack dab in the middle of "freeze your rear end off days".   It is okay because most of us in the South are crazier than a coot anyway and we enjoy a little mishmash in our weather.  We have a few snows each year that really don't amount to a hill of  beans but folks in the South drain every ounce of pleasure out of them.  Mama always predicted if a cloud held snow by the way it looked.  She was usually right, more right than our fancy meteorologists.  When those first flakes started falling, we rushed outside to try and catch the first ones with our tongues.  If we were at school and the roads started sticking, then we were going home.  I am not sure anything has ever caused more elation than an early snow dismissal.

Dressing to go out in the snow to play was quite an endeavor.  We didn't own snow suits or ski suits so we wore what we could find.  We layered up until we could barely move and then pulled our orange galoshes over our shoes. We always had about 72 orange galoshes and I have no idea where they lived the other 362 days out of the year.  They just seemed to magically appear whenever snow fell.  We put bread bags over our gloves to try and keep them dry.  If we didn't have enough gloves then socks became our makeshift gloves.  Sometimes we would wear our regular shoes and  then put a bread bag over for protection.  It didn't work and we looked absolutely ridiculous.

We were ready for action as plodded out the door looking like little abominable snowmen.  Usually the first thing we tried was making snow angels. We could barely move so our snow angels were a sight to behold. Getting back up off the ground in all of those clothes was always quite a feat.  We tromped through the woods stamping the imprint of our orange boots in the snow.  The snow always energized our dogs and they acted like they were hyenas on steroids.
 We had numerous snow ball fights on every quadrant of our property.  We built snow forts in the last summer's vegetable patch by the cherry trees.  I usually managed to get into the stickers that had overtaken the garden after it stopped producing.  They would be stuck to my clothes and gloves and be real nuisance in trying to make snow ball ammunition.

 We stayed out in the snow until we were wet, cold and tired.  We would go inside and pull off all of that junk, pick off the stickers, lay the wet gloves and socks around the fireplace so they could dry. We tramped snow in the house that would melt in puddles by the door.  We made hot chocolate on top of the stove with powdered cocoa, sugar and milk to help warm us up.   We drank cocoa the same way that I drink coffee now, hot and often.

As soon as we were warm and rested  and our clothes dried out a bit we would go back out to tramp up the snow around the house and maybe build a snowman.  We never had a huge amount of snow except on rare occasions so our snowmen often had leaves and sticks mixed in with the snow.  We had a coal pile out by the old car shed.  We found lumps of coal to make the eyes and mouth.  Someone would sacrifice an old sock cap or maybe use a stretched worn sock for a hat. We might confiscate the broom and then our snowman would be beautiful and complete.

Snow might last two days at a max and we were always excited for it to snow that second day.  I loved looking out at night and seeing the magic of a world covered by the beautiful cold white.  Every ugly thing in our yard got a snow make over and it was wonderful. The big cedar trees at the back of the corn field would often be laden with heavy clumps of snow.  In the South temperatures might rise during the day and start the melting process but then drop as the sun went down.  This would make the whole world turn into a glistening world of ice, beautiful but terrible for breaking trees and causing power outages.

In the evening we would make snow cream.  Grandma insisted that we had to wait until the second snow as the first snow had to clean the air.  I don't see the science in all that as the rain is just warmed up snow. When you are seven, then Grandma is an authority on everything.  We made snow cream by gathering some clean snow usually from the top of a vehicle.  We mixed vanilla, sugar and milk until we came up with a somewhat palatable mix.  The snow cream always got packed down and the milky sweet water would separate from the hard packed snow in the dish.  Snow cream was our redneck version of an Italian ice.

I am not sure anyone sleeps sounder than a kid who has played in the snow all day and finally taken a hot bath and snuggled down under five heavy quilts.  We were tired and happy, already dreaming about another snow day.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Stickies, Persimmon Pudding and Thinking Outside the Box

I grew up in the country and we would by all standards been considered poor people.  Don't believe it though.  Money has never defined poverty.  Poverty happens when people only have money. We had a rich life in so many ways.

Daddy and Mama both knew how to pinch pennies but we  weren't deprived.   Poor people don't go to the store for their jollies, they find a way to make do at home.  Learning to "make do" is a life skill that has served me well in every area of my life.  We would now say someone was resourceful or someone who could think outside of the box.  Not having money is a tremendous motivator of learning to think outside the box.  

Mama had to figure out ways to make treats because our grocery budget would never allow for  special expensive ingredients.  One thing she made was "Stickies".  Mama would make biscuit dough and then thinly roll it out.  Butter was smeared on the dough and then sugar and cocoa powder was sprinkled on top of that. It was rolled up and cut like a cinnamon roll and then baked in the oven.  A true cinnamon roll is made with a yeast dough.  A "Stickie" was a quick bread that did not require "rising time".  They came out of the oven oozing with a hot sugary butter mixture. We always ate them as soon as they were done.  I would imagine that they would have hardened up and would not have made great leftovers, but we never had any leftover.  

Another treat was popcorn.  We put oil in the bottom of a heavy pan and waited until it heated up and then added a thin layer of cheap popcorn kernels.  We shook the pan to keep the corn from burning and to try and pop as much of the corn as possible.  It was a failure if half of the kernels never popped.  Probably more of a thing of pride than anything. We always impatiently lifted the lid and the corn popped out onto the floor. We always salted it heavily when it was done.  If we were really expansive then we melted butter to put on the top.  Half the fun was making the corn. The whole house was filled with that smell. After some years we got one of the popcorn poppers that plugged into the wall and had a little element that heated up.  It was pretty gimmicky.  The "pan on the stove method" was superior to that little flimsy aluminum deal. 

Mama would also make sugar cookies.  They were made with good simple ingredients that she always had on hand.  Her cookies were always big and soft and we ate them probably as fast as she took them out of the oven.  We hung around in that warm kitchen waiting for those cookies while that sweet smell emanated from that old Hotpoint oven.

One of my favorite things that she made was a Persimmon Pudding.  We had two persimmon trees. One stood in the corn field like a tall sentinel. Daddy always had to plow around it but he wanted to preserve the tree.  The other was mixed in with a plethora of trees near the tractor path that went to the lower garden.  After the first frost the persimmons were sweet and ready.  Daddy would  gather the persimmons and mama would put them in a sieve and squeeze out the pulp.  She baked a mixture of persimmons, sugar, butter, flour, eggs, vanilla, and cinnamon in a baking dish in the oven.  It was a sticky heavenly concoction. 

Another treat was baked sweet potatoes.  Daddy grew sweet potatoes and some evenings we would throw a number of them in the oven.  When the skin was parched dry and sweet juice ran from the potato, then they were done.  We slathered butter on the top and scooped out the soft rich orange  pulp.  The sweet potatoes were usually dug later on in the fall and were eaten on cold nights.  They warmed us inside and the enjoyment of eating those potatoes still warm my soul today. 

Leftover cornbread was often crumbled into sweet milk and eaten like cereal. I have great memories of sitting at that old Formica table with my glass having some of that preboxed corn cereal.  

Sometimes we toasted a pan of  sliced white bread in the oven. We spread the butter on the bread before it went into the oven or sometimes just put pats of butter on the bread like eyeballs waiting to melt.  I am not sure much smells better than a pan of bread toasting.  Molasses syrup was often poured onto the toast or it was spread with homemade grape or apple jelly.  

Food was just one of the ways we had a rich life.  All of our homemade treats usually drew us into the kitchen and it caused us to interact with one another.    I think part of the richness comes from a mom who was willing to use the resources that she had  to do the little extras that made our lives better. Mama was not a "Leave It To Beaver" mom.  She was a real person with real life problems and with real life limitations, but somehow she went the extra mile to find tangible ways to show us that she loved us.