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!

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A Funeral Guestbook

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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.

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.

Sleep is for the Week(end)

When I was younger, I could sleep forever.  No, seriously.  Actually, Victor and I were just talking about how my sleep is very important, so I don’t know if that has changed.  Since the baby has come along, there have definitely been nights where I’ve had to say, “Victor, I am sorry, but you have to take care of her tonight–I’ve got to get to sleep!”  Or even in those early days, I would get up and pump, then he would get up and feed Ale later when she cried.  (A friend just told me the other day that I had a diamond…so true!)

When Ale was young, she slept a lot! I didn’t complain like other new mommies about sleep deprivation all the time (Seriously, people, that can mostly be avoided if your baby sleeps near or with you…)  Now she’s learned that she can fight the sleep–unless we time it just right.  (Most of the time, she just cuddles up next to me and breastfeeds–which makes Bedtime Mommy a lot friendlier.)  In the evening, she will hang out with us, playing and reading, then when she’s tired–she doesn’t fuss–she just attacks me.

When I came to Mexico, I thought I had learned to put work in its proper place.  It didn’t follow me home.  It didn’t sneak into my dreams.  And my weekends were work-free.  Then I got offered a promotion for next year.  I will be the literacy coach for the teachers at our school–and I am oh-so-very-excited.  I am also determined to prove myself.  Here is where the trouble lies.

The monstruo that is inside the heart of every working mom has reared his ugly head.  I have started feeling guilty and resentful for the time I spend at work.  I know it is good time for Ale and Papi, but doesn’t a girl need her mama?  My work can’t help but follow me home.  And when I get home, I really don’t mind cooking.  It actually makes me feel like a better wife and mama–because I know my family is eating healthier than if we go out to eat.  Ale crawls around my feet, and I avoid stepping on her by letting her play in the cabinets.  Then we leave the dirty dishes (most of the time), and we play.  But we play with the conscious effort on my part to put the overflowing in-box of work that is always in my head to the side for later.

This brings us to the present–where I sit typing this blog while drinking coffee at 5:30 in the morning.  This is when I do my work.  It is when Ale and Victor sleep.  This time is productive (usually)–and waking up at 4:00 isn’t nearly as outrageous as it once would have been.  Waking up at four is just what I do to keep Work Mommy and At-Home Mommy from becoming Guilty Mommy.

Sleep?  As my mamaw used to say, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.”

The First Thanksgiving

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You know, after you’ve been living in another country for almost two years there are few “firsts” left to experience. So I was surprised when I realized that this was my first Thanksgiving away from home. Then I promptly cried in front of my coworkers.

It’s Ale’s first Thanksgiving, so I made her an outfit that she will some day laugh at.

It’s our first Thanksgiving together as husband and wife (Last year I went home).

It’s the first time I’ve made turkey and dressing.

It’s our first Mexican Thanksgiving–so we had Mexican and Americans dining together in the true spirit of the day.

It’s the first time I’ve had to explain the significance of Thanksgiving to anyone.

Thanksgiving was always one of my favorite holidays. It isn’t the turkey–honestly, I could live without it. While I love pie, it isn’t that either. It’s the whole getting-together-with-family that makes it special!

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A couple years ago my mamaw’s Alzheimer’s won out over our favorite holiday. My mama admitted that the holiday wasn’t as much fun as it once had been. So, I made it my mission to have my own Thanksgiving with my mama. We made all the staples together: and even pulled out Mamaw’s recipe book to make her recipes.

Last night I flipped through my book looking for pumpkin pie, and my Mamaw’s handwriting popped out from one page. I looked on it with love and determination. Love for the amazing women who’ve labored on a day like this–and determination to pass on that same love by being a better mama and wife.

Victor said something that I think is really valid about today. He said, “In the United States, one woman cooks for everyone. She does it because her family is important. She just wants them there with her.” I had more than my family with me today–but I think about the moments leading up to that one meal. My baby crawling around singing a constant hum. My husband telling me stories and listening to me talk about my coworkers. The laughter we shared over something the baby did. Laying on the floor of the kitchen to nurse in between preparing the pie and turkey. Multiple trips to the store for supplies.

And now the baby and my husband are by my side. Our bellies are full of sweet potatoes and turkey. We are snuggled up and ready to beat the cold desert night together…

It’s my first Thanksgiving with my family, and we kept the family tradition alive. I’m thankful for my 28 Thanksgivings with my Mama and Mamaw–and for this, our first, as a Mama and daughter team. The Thanksgiving tradition will continue…

20131128-222529.jpgMamaw’s dressing–as dictated by my Mama and made by me.

Oh, Husband Dear…

Let me just preface this by saying that I am the baby whisperer.  That might be a slight exaggeration, but I have held about a million babies.  Okay, that too.

I’ve held my share of babies.  And my friends’ shares because they get all nervous around babies.  I remember the first baby I “put to sleep.” He was this adorable little twin, and I was so proud of myself.  I was probably about 8.  Since then, I’ve grabbed every baby that I am within ten feet of to hang onto.  My first niece was born when I was 16, and since then– twelve more kiddos have entered our family.  I haven’t dropped one.

So, dear husband, understand that when you tell me, “Hold the baby’s head!” I am taken aback.

And I reply with swagger, “This ain’t my first rodeo.” (Pretty sure that was lost on you…)

Oh, I love your concern–don’t get me wrong.  Today when I doubled over in pain after sneezing (ah, pregnancy), I thought we were going to run to the hospital.  I had to literally Google  “I am pregnant and it hurts when I sneeze” to explain WHY this happens.

I’ve had a runny nose all night, and during our movie night, every time I gave a little sniffle you would pat my leg and ask how I was.  Then, when I kicked off my shoes when I came home,  you quickly got me my slippers because I “shouldn’t walk around barefoot.”

Oh, heaven help us.

This is why I get up and fix you breakfast.  You’re too dang sweet!  I have to do nice things in return (plus I am really, REALLY hungry in the morning).    I WANT to do nice things in return.  And when you offer to help when I am running around like a chicken with my head cut off, I just love you more.

Raising a baby with you is going to be amazing.  Unless you tell me to hold his head…  Then you’re going to see a little of my Mamaw in me.  (You might not understand that, but know this: it won’t be her good side.)

 

A Legacy of Love

I used to love playing with the skin on my Mamaw’s hands.  She was probably in her 70’s and I was her unofficial charge.  At meeting (church), I would sit with my arm hooked in the crook of her arm, and my head rested constantly on her shoulder.    She (for some reason) let me pinch the skin on her hands and squish it back down.  There wasn’t much she didn’t let me do if I sat quietly (including sleep…)

Today I sat on the couch with her.  I held her hand, and gently rested my head on her shoulder.  It’s bonier than it used to be.  Her hands are cold, and I said, “Cold hands…”  She continued, “Warm heart.  Dirty feet...”  I finished, “And no sweetheart!”  She has these sayings.  It makes me feel closer to her when I can repeat the words I’ve heard all my life.  And somehow–it seems to bring her comfort too.

Just like the hymns.  Today I sang my heart out.  She drifted in and out of sleep.  Occasionally she would comment, “Oh, that’s a pretty hymn.”  “Where do you go to meeting?”  “That’s just beautiful.”  Understand that she wasn’t remarking kindly based on how well I carried that tune in my bucket–she just loves the hymns.  All My Springs Arise in Jesus is one of her favorite, and we sing an old tune that isn’t that common.  “All my springs arise in Jesus, he my in-most needs supplies.  Satisfies my heart’s deep longings, quells the fears which oft arise…

She asks often about her kids.  She wants to know if they have been there–and when they’ll be returning.  “You haven’t lived until you have children,” she would say when we were young.  I reminded her of that today, and she said, “Well, they’re all you’ve got.”  Maybe that is why I’ve always felt like life would truly begin when I had children.

She ate two bowls of ice cream today.  My mom says when you make it that far, you get to eat whatever you want.  I remember her sweet tooth when I would spend the night.  She would often pull sherbert or ice cream out for a late treat.

“Lets go to bed,” said old Sleepy-head.”  “Aw, let’s wait a while,” said old Slow.  “Put on the pot,” said old Greedy-knot, “and we’ll eat a bite before we go.”

My daddy used to say that,” she would finish.  We would say our prayers (on our knees), and I would peek to see if she was finished.  If not, I would think of more things/people to pray for.  We would rise together, snuggle into bed together, and I would warm up her cold feet.  “You’re like a heater,” she would always say.  We would drift off to sleep peacefully.

Ninety-one today, and her life has been so full!  She has five children.  Eleven grandchildren.  Sixteen great-grandchildren.  Oh, she’s had heartbreak and disappointments.  She has lost more than any one person should, and her natural body has weakened.    But we can rest assured that she will dwell in the house of the Lord for the rest of her days.  What more could we wish for someone we love?

Happy birthday, Mamaw!

A Taste of Home (Kinda…)

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I woke up feeling so great this morning! I had gotten up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom and take my medicine. I lay there relishing in slight pain (which is so much better than the severe pain I have felt for days…), and I knew what I wanted to do. It is after all, what every good southern woman does on Saturday morning…

BISCUITS AND GRAVY!

It is interesting, for three years I have ranted about the woes of flour. I need my White Lily. Nothing works like White Lily. And for three years my biscuits turn out like hockey pucks. Turns out a little All Purpose Flour and baking powder makes a pretty good biscuit. I certainly have NOTHING on my Mama. She makes the world’s BEST biscuits. If you want to make some delcious biscuits like her, you can study her method via this Youtube video I made last Thanksgiving. (Mama’s Biscuit Video)

I used my mexican flour, the baking powder, salt, butter, and my homemade buttermilk (apple cider vinegar in regular milk). I am able to buy bacon here, but I can’t find breakfast sausage. So, today’s gravy was bacon gravy. Add some delicious tomatoes and scrambled eggs–you’ve got yourself a southern breakfast.

I was channeling my Mamaw again, so a little later I sent Victor to the store for lemons. Is there anything more delicious than lemonade on a hot day? yum!

South of the Border (Down Mexico Way)

When I was a little girl, there were some songs that I always requested from people I love. I am sure that they must have sang them a thousand times. Mama would always sing “The Playmate Song” (that sounds so naughty now that I actually know what a ‘Playmate’ is). She actually sang to me all the time, which is probably why I love it so much.

Playmate, come out and play with me. And bring your dollies three…

Mamaw, on the other hand, had three go-to songs that we would beg to hear.

  1. The Tennessee Waltz (Click here to view/listen)
  2. Blue Heaven (Click here to listen)
  3. South of the Border (Click here to listen)

I think Mamaw sang #3 for me. Even now, while she doesn’t remember the majority of things, she can hum along and sing a few lines. Everytime I sing, “South of the border, down Mexico way, that’s where they fell in love when stars above came out to play…” I think of Mamaw.

Last time I was home, I was shocked (and not surprised at all) to see that she had declined a bit more in three months. She asked me to sit with her, not on the other couch. She clutched my hand, and we sang a few familiar hymns. I love to hear her say, “That’s beautiful. Yeah.”

I remember when I was the one who wouldn’t let go of her. I sat on the couch at Allie and Paul’s with Mamaw. I would hook my arm through her’s and rub her skin (I have this “thing”about soft skin…) I also loved to pinch the skin and watch it go back down. I don’t remember when I realized that it did this because she was old. Now I get a little nervous to realize that my skin is lifting a bit easier in my old age. (No, really…)

I remember riding to meeting with her Mexican style. That means that I didn’t sit in a car seat–I sat on her lap. She would hook us both into the seat belt. When I got bigger, I still sat with her, only I sat on the seat beside her. She would wrap her arms around me and say, “I’ll be your seatbelt.” I don’t remember when I stopped riding with her. I don’t think Fuva took my place though–I think she just started driving there herself.

Ahh… sweet woman, how did you know that I would end up south of the border down Mexico way? How did you know that I would lose my sweetheart to another woman? How did you know I would long for a blue heaven of my own? What a wise woman.