The Mamaw Series: Banana Puddin’

  This is the first of a series of blog posts I plan on writing over the course of the next few months.  My mamaw loved to cook, and she would clip recipes from the newspapers or copy them from her friends.  Her recipe book is one of the items that I have already laid claim on (sorry, sisters), and it is closely guarded by its current owner, my mama.  I went through it in my late teens, sitting under her watchful eye, copying the recipes that I really loved.  Her handwriting of recipes I copied on the copier brings tears to my eyes–the slanted purposeful writing of an aging woman.

Once we had the assignment in writing class to write about a place.  We were instructed to draw on our senses, the sounds, smells, the way it looked, etc.  I wrote my paper on my Mamaw’s Kitchen.  I have so many memories of being there, watching her cook, seldom getting to cook myself, and eating with her at the table.   I remember Mamaw letting me help layer the wafers and the bananas in her clear glass bowl.  Later she would cook the pudding on the stove, and then pour it hot and thick over the prepared bowl.  It was so hard to wait for the banana pudding to be cold, but it was well worth the wait!

Mama says this was a clue that Mamaw’s memory was failing: she didn’t remember the recipe.  It was never written down either, but Mama and I tried to recreate it a couple years ago with smashing success.

Mamaw’s Banana Pudding

1 box of Vanilla Wafers
1 bunch of bananas
Can of evaporated milk
1/2 cup white sugar (maybe a little less–with the bananas and cookies, this is sweet!)
1 egg, well beaten
2 TBSP all-purpose flour
1 tsp vanilla

  1. In a medium sized bowl, begin to layer the vanilla wafers and bananas.
  2. In a sauce pan, add the remaining ingredients except the vanilla.
  3. On low heat, continually stir the pudding.  Make sure you break the lumps of flour up, so that your pudding doesn’t become lumpy.  Stir until it begins to thicken.
  4. Remove from the heat, and stir in the vanilla.
  5. Pour the hot pudding evenly over the bowl of prepared vanilla wafers and bananas.
  6. Cool on the counter-top before covering with plastic wrap and cooling further in the fridge.
  7. Enjoy with the people you love!

Banana pudding is delicious even a day or two old–if it lasts that long!

A Funeral Guestbook


So, apparently the funeral home has an online guestbook.  I love these notes from family and friends that we may have not seen for a while.  Mamaw is on my mind today (and every day).

Dear Shelia and Blakley Clan,

Although we are far away and can’t hug you in person, know that we care and are praying for comfort and peace and much needed rest to come your way.
God bless you all,
The Blakleys in New Mexico O’s & X’s

Thoughts and prayers with the passing of your Mother. She was such a good person. Blessing to you all.
Lavada Brown,

My extended family, I grieve with you all at this moment in time. So many happy memories made with Rene and the rest of you. Know that I am with you in spirit even though I can’t be there in person.
My Love,
Annah Banana Fawver Faulkner

Steve & Family,
Sorry for your loss, I wish that I had met your mother, she must have been great as reflected by you.
Dave & Sharon Reighn

I am so very sorry for your family’s loss.
Sending prayers and love.
I am thinking of you.

I am so sorry to hear about Irene and had been thinking a lot about her lately. She was a tremendous person that had a great impact on my life. She has always had my love and admiration and I have missed seeing her and talking to her in recent years. I know she is a great loss to her family and friends.
Love always,
Janice Brown Sitzlar
(Loudon, TN)

Everyone in this family is a reflection of Irene’s loving nurturing. What a wonderful,generous, and caring neighbor and friend! We love and respect your family immensely and are here for you if you need us. We are praying for comfort and peace for you all.

Ms. Irene was a lovely lady. My memories of her always put a smile on my face. This love and admiration for her was shared by three generations of my family. To her family, you are all in our thoughts and prayers.

Dear Sheila and family,

So sorry to hear about Irene. You and your family have surely stood by her these last years – with loving care. I think of you and yours often. Just wanted you to know that we haven’t forgotten you! We love you.

The Meanest Mama in the World

This year in honor of Mother’s Day, I decided to write something special to the best meanest mama in the world.

When I was young, my sister and I used to pee out the window of the second story of our house.  My mom would reach her limit on how many times she believed us when we would plea for the bathroom, and peeing out the window was the best choice left.  Peeing in the closet was second best (or worst…depending on your view point).  We tried to pee like normal kids, but Mama wouldn’t let us.  We would tip-toe as far as we dared at night after we were sent to bed, and retreat when threats of spankings came our way.

Speaking of spanking, we knew who we had to fear in our house.  Daddy would whip his belt out of his jeans with great flare, but that is as far as he went.  Mama loved spanking us so much she did it ALL the time.  AND she never would let Daddy.  Mama had us pick our own switch off the bushes.  That’s how you know you have the meanest mama in the world: she makes you pick your own torture device.

Other mamas like to take their children to McDonalds for a treat… or say, a Happy Meal.  Not my mama.  The only time I went to McDonalds was with friends.  Furthermore, my mama would sing songs about McDonalds milkshakes being like polluted lakes and french fries between your toes.  My mama insisted on eating at home.  AND she hardly EVER bought us soda.  She was so mean.

My sister remembers this much better than I do, but in the summer, when it was the hottest outside, Mama would lock us out.  (She always waited until it was hot.)  She wouldn’t let us come inside, even to use the bathroom.  AND, when we did, it wasn’t to watch TV.  Nope.  No TV for us.  Mean Mama made us read instead of watching our non-existent TV.  If we complained about being bored, she would say, “I can give you something to do.”  That meant that you better skedaddle.  Because “something to do” really means “chores.”  We were seldom bored enough for that.

If we were lucky enough to go to the pool, Mama wouldn’t let us just run and jump in when we got there.  We had to wear sunscreen THEN wait for hours before we could get into the water.  If we had been fighting before, we would have to wait even longer while our friends and siblings swam.  She never let us swim in the deep end without her watching.  We would have to first go ask, then go to the deep end to jump off the boards.

We NEVER got away with skipping church.  She had to meet all of our friends families before we could play.  We had to do our own laundry much younger than our friends did.  Our pantry was full of homemade canned green beans, tomatoes, and beets.  We had frozen peaches, strawberries, corn, and pickles all winter.  AND she made us help her clean the kitchen.  When it was time to clean our room, she would come check to make sure it was cleaned.  If it wasn’t cleaned good enough for her, she would have us redo it.  Worst of all, she wouldn’t let us say the “b word.”

I can say it now though:




And there isn’t one thing she can do about it.

me and mama

Happy Mother’s Day to my meanie mama.  I wouldn’t trade my horrible childhood for a million dollars.

Mamaw on My Mind

I think of my Mamaw a dozen times a day.  It isn’t that I think of her more now than before, but now I have the second reminder that she is gone.  Now I feel a brief whisper of sadness knowing I won’t see her this summer when I go home.  

I just walked into the bedroom, and felt the air blowing on the floor.  I remember hot summer nights, when I would go sleep on the floor in front of the fan or air conditioner.  Mamaw believed in the power of sleep.  She didn’t believe in freezing interiors to combat sticky Tennessee nights, but she tolerated my need for air.

Today I made myself a glass of iced tea–and thought about making some green tea for a cold drink.  I don’t remember when it was, but at some point (I think around high school) Mamaw started making green tea as an iced tea.  She was on to something.  It is delicious cold.  Mamaw always had a cold drink in the fridge, but more than anything, she loved water.

Mama went to visit sweet friends today, and Maci went along with her.  That made me remember all the times I begrudgingly visited the old folks when I was young.  Now I treasure those visits.  We would eat a bite, and Mamaw would wash and wrap up their hair.  I remember the first time I saw a fake bun that a lady made from her hair as it fell out.  

She was brilliant, loving, and beyond what words could say.  What an amazing woman.  I am happy for these memories of her.  I just wish my babies could have known her (and there it is! Another memory of how she used to say that she wished her mama could have known us…)

With Love, From Your Namesake

I find myself at a loss for words.

Three times I have begun to write this post, and then I return to the beginning to delete everything that was previously written. Because what do you say when your heart is so full with love for a woman who isn’t with you anymore?  What do you say when your mind is constantly replaying events in your life, desperate to keep memories alive?  How can you find words to describe your love for someone who never needed words to share her love for others?

My mamaw spoon-fed us well after we were able to feed ourselves.  That might be the first memory I have of her–sitting at her table in a small kitchen of a small house waiting for my turn.  She had a bowl of white rice sweetened with brown sugar and a creamy pat of butter in front of her, and every other bite was mine.  People use the expression of being spoon-fed to describe someone who is spoiled (or pampered), and I have no qualms about it, I was “spoilt rotten.”

We slept together at night–snuggled into a thick feather bed in the winter.  Sometimes I fell out of the bed.  I always knew when that would happen, because I would wake up the next morning with a kitchen chair on my side of the bed–the back of the chair was pushed against the side of the mattress to keep me from rolling out again.  We were covered with a thick wool-type blanket, and the next morning along with the news of my plunge to the floor I would hear about how she couldn’t keep the covers on me (and I would see the evidence: nice neat blankets on her side, but a mess on mine…)  With a reminder to wear the booties or houseshoes placed beside the bed, she would greet me the next day with an offer for breakfast.

Breakfast was something special at my mamaw’s house.  I would stand at her elbow as much as I could before she would shoo me out of the kitchen.  Into her skillet she would start cooking meat for gravy–browning the meat well slowly, before removing it to start the gravy.  Mamaw had breakfast down to a science, everything would finish at the same time, and we would crowd around the table.  This is when family would get together, each of us crumbling a biscuit on our plates before ladling gravy and homemade canned tomatoes on top.  We would sip at sweet tea from jelly jars when we were younger, none of us with coffee, save Mamaw.  Afterwards, Mamaw would pull a pre-buttered biscuit off of the stovetop where she had placed the biscuit pan.  Using a spoon she would carefully pull honey out of the jar, turning the spoon as she went, as to keep the honey from making a mess.

Mamaw hated a mess.  She was a particular lady, and no one could do things quite the way she wanted.  So, she did it herself.  She would brush off the offers to help with dishes, and later she would get her hands into that hot soapy water.  First she would wash the cups and glasses, later the plates, the silverware, and finally her pots and pans.  All of her dishes were stacked particularly in her drainer.  When finished, she would dry her hands on a towel that hung under the sink on a cabinet handle.  Smelling faintly of bleach, Mamaw would join her family as they sat around in the living room visiting.

Sundays were special.  Mamaw and I would sit in the front seat of Mama’s van, and she would wrap her arms around me.  “I’ll be your seatbelt,” she used to say.  Then the day came where instead of her arms sheltering me, we would squeeze together within the seatbelt.  At meeting I would sit with Mamaw.  Mama would be in front of us with kids on both sides of her.  Occasionally I would whisper hymn requests to Mamaw–and more often than not, she would give them out.  I don’t remember Mamaw ever mentioning the repeated prayers of one of the ladies–and she had nothing but kindness for her even to the end of her life.

Mamaw loved the older friends in the area.  I learned to love old people at her side.  She would go by to wash and fix their hair, to take them to doctor’s appointments, and just to visit.  She would always remind them, “You know, this is my namesake.” Pride filled her voice, and my chest would puff out as she bragged.  I don’t remember much of what we talked about at those visits, but I remember them, none-the-less.  With Christlike love, Mamaw filled a place in God’s kingdom, caring for others even as she began to age herself.  I think of her faithfulness–they mentioned the depth of her testimony at her funeral, the hidden life that she had, reading and praying.   I am glad that while she spent time alone with God, she also spent time living her testimony out in front of us.  For as long as I remember, Mamaw sat reading her bible every opportunity she could.  She read more as she entered the final years, until no longer could she sit and read.

There is no doubt in my mind that Mamaw loved her family.  She would tell us, “If you don’t have family, you don’t have anything.”  She loved her family, but she loved God more.  And you know what?  I am so grateful that she did… She loved her children, and we would drive hours for a visit that aligned with special meeting.  She would speak of the bible, God’s law, and right and wrong every opportunity that she could.  More than anything, Mamaw was unforgiving in her zeal.

Death is a part of life, and Mamaw reminded us of that: “The young MAY die, but the old MUST,” she would say.  Knowing that someday she would die didn’t stop me from moving to Minnesota when I was 20, but it sure did bring me home.  I didn’t get much mail when I was there for six months, but one card I received from her asked me to return.  I did.  That winter, Mamaw’s heath started to fail.  She couldn’t shake a bug that made her feel pretty rotten, and before long her body began to ache with the pains of “Ol’ Arthur.”  Sipping apple cider vinegar and honey in the morning offered some relief, but her decline in health didn’t pick up from there.  It wasn’t long that she didn’t feel up to preparing breakfast most Saturday mornings, supper on Tuesday nights, or banana pudding on special occasions…

I can’t speak of the final years of her life much–as much from self preservation as willing ignorance, I distanced myself from it.  Mama lived 93 years, but the quality, or extent of her life can’t be measured by that final number.  It also can’t be measured in by bowls of ice cream, number of offspring, or blooming flowers transplanted by her.  She loved them all, but lived for something greater.

And you know what?  She died for something greater too.

Mamaw will be missed, but not forgotten.  She lives on in the hearts of everyone that knew her–in her stories, her sayings, and in the recipes that we cook.  1,200 words, and still it isn’t enough to explain the impact she had on my life.

Well done, Mamaw, well done.