Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The family saga continues

I was going to discuss the Portuguese class I have been taking but decided to wait until I learn a bit more. Thank you for the comments on the last post. It just goes to show that the old saying is true -- Write what you know best. I guess I've always known it in the back of my mind. I had just forgotten that the most entertaining stories are those about my family.

When I was in high school, I joked to my mother that I was going to become a writer for soaps. I was going to base storylines on my family; they can be much more interesting than the average soap often. I was going to say that I was rather embarrassed when my mother shared this with the rest of her side of the family but I just realized that I am getting my stories mixed up. What was embarrassing was when my mother shared one of my observations of the family.

"This family could take up a whole ward at a psych hospital. The only question is who will be admitted first."

Fortunately my family, being the twisted Southerners that they are, found humor in this. We still have discussions on who is going in first. There are also discussions on what the doctor's diagnosis of whoever this unfortunate (fortunate?) person is. If you had told me at age 16 that one statement would end up supplying the family with over 20 years of entertainment, I would not have believed you.

With that, let me continue on with the warm and fuzzy stories. Besides having the ever-so-wonderful "real parents" in my life, I also had my dad's mother. My grandmother was the oldest of 12 children. She and my grandfather then had ten children of their own. My parents (the biological ones) thought that it was important that I know my family; they also wanted a vacation. Therefore, I was shipped off to the Southern states for six weeks almost every summer through age 15.

My grandmother lived on the family farm primarily until I was 12 or so. The farm is somewhere between 1,700 and 1,800 acres. My grandfather primarily raised hogs and grew cotton. My uncle took over after my grandfather's death and replaced the cotton crop with soy beans. We didn't really have any neighbors so going into town every couple of weeks or so was a treat.

My day consisted of getting up before dawn to have breakfast with my grandfather and my older cousin. (He cooked his own and looked forward to the company in the summer.) He thought it was impressive that girls were up at that hour. As soon as he left the house, we would go back to bed. Then we would get back up with everyone else for a second breakfast.

Sometime between breakfast and dinner, I would proclaim to my grandmother that I was bored. There was always one response to that. "Let me find you a book to read." I read Twain, Aesop's Fables, Greek mythology and Shakespeare to name a few.

My reading list was later supplemented with other studies -- specifically cooking. My grandmother was a wonderful cook, an even more wonderful baker. There was always a freshly baked dessert for after dinner. I eventually became her assistant in the kitchen. Part of the reason I did this was that the assistant usually got the bowl and beaters. My grandmother would also bake miniature cakes of the cake she was preparing. The assistant got first dibs on these as well.

She bought me a cookbook when I wanted to learn more. I still remember preparing dinner one night with recipes selected from the book. Of course my grandmother supervised the whole operation, giving me pointers on how to improve. My mother asked me upon returning home at the end of that summer if I had learned how to cook. I answered, "No."

My parents were sure that I would starve to death my freshman year of college. Instead I returned home seven pounds heavier. My mother was shocked. When she talked to my grandmother over the summer, she expressed her shock. My grandmother replied, "But she's known how to cook for some time and is quite good." That ended my days of never preparing meals at my mother's house.

My grandmother was a dear friend who I spoke to often. During freshman year if I wasn't sure about a recipe, I could call her and she would walk me through it over the phone. She also served as a counselor (After my grandfather's death she returned to college and completed her B.A. in sociology.) so that I had an outlet for the insanity of my parents.

My grandmother died five years ago. I am the only one in the family who has a number of the recipes that have become family favorites. The main one of these is her recipe for tea cakes. (Jen and Gloria, when I feel up to baking again, I will be sure to send you some.) I keep trying to pass these recipes along to other family members. Some have accepted but then refuse to try again after the first attempt. They keep saying, "When I make it, it doesn't taste right. You make them right." This is why I had no problem in receiving the mixer from my dad for my birthday this year.

So even though most of my family is nuts, there have been some pretty wonderful people in it as well. OK. Even some of the nuttier ones are wonderful in their own way.

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