Grandma’s Biscuit Pan

IMG_1684

Grandma’s Biscuit Pan

It’s amazing how inanimate objects can take on life as you remember who used them before, who gave them to you, their storied background.  I’m not talking about what would be considered heirlooms. For instance, Grandma’s biscuit mixing pan.

It’s just a simple aluminum pan with a zillion crinkles as if it’s been through a few battles. The crinkles remind me of sweet Grandma Sue Mote’s softly wrinkled face. She was my husband’s grandmother. I didn’t know her until I became part of his family and, by then, Grandma’s home was a gathering place for her six children and dozens of grandchildren and great grandchildren. I only remember seeing her use this little pan a time or two but I can imagine her now pinching a biscuit size bit of dough from this pan, patting it out in her hand and adding it to others ready to bake.

When Grandma died and her girls distributed her things, I was very honored to receive the biscuit pan. It brings back memories of her simple kitchen, her hand sewn curtains and aprons, the smell of chicken and dumplings on the stove, the happy crowd of cousins that spilled out into her carport and the yard. She was never prouder than when everyone came for her birthday or at Christmas.

I admit I no longer use this little pan to mix biscuit dough in, even when I rarely make biscuits. But I do use it for mealing a mess of catfish to fry or I slice okra into it. And when I do, I remember Grandma Sue, her sweet smile, her perfectly white hair and her joy in simple pleasures like cooking for her family.

Then there are those knives with a history. You probably have some like that too. For instance, the shiny little paring knife my mother gave me when she visited one time. She sat down to cut apples for me and was very displeased with the knife I produced for her to use. Later in the day she told me we had to go to the store and, once there, she chose this sharp dependable paring knife that, after thirty years, is still doing its job. “Every cook has to have a good knife,” she said.

Another knife is known by the whole family as “the good knife.” It is a chunky big wooden handled knife which keeps a good edge, and is just right for halving a head of cabbage or carving a roasted turkey. I don’t usually tell anyone how we acquired this knife. They might think it could never have been sterilized enough to forget its first life. But it was my husband’s necropsy knife when he was in veterinary school. Yes, it cut up some pretty gross stuff, I know. It was his own personal necropsy knife purchased at a dear price. His name is etched into the blade. That’s how we’ve found it numerous times after it was lost at the church, on a fishing trip, at family gatherings. When cutting a watermelon or slicing ham, that is the knife of choice.

But I have a favorite new knife as well. My sister Suzanne and her husband Bill gave me a really sweet little paring knife bought in Amish country. It will peel, slice, chop, shred just about anything. I treasure it and keep it in its very own slot.

One of my favorite things is an oblong shallow wooden bowl used by my  mother. Somehow, out of a family of ten, I became the new owner. It’s too cracked and worn now for me to use but I can enjoy it displaying decorative fruit or other pretty things. I remember Mamma chopping cabbage for kraut in it (no wonder it’s so scarred!), mixing bread, or making potato salad. I can almost taste the bread she cooked on a flat griddle on her woodburning stove. That flat bread was a standby for her when the day suddenly arrived at suppertime and she had so many mouths to feed quickly. And oh, how good, slathered with her freshly churned butter!

I have a cooking fork acquired from a sister-in-law’s things, a wonderful long heavy stainless steel spoon perfect for stirring jelly given to me by my daughter Julie for Christmas one year, an ice cream scoop that is the best, given to me by my son Will and his wife Christi. A scratched pitiful looking cutting board reminds me of when we first moved to Cairo and the Welcome Wagon lady came calling. She was as friendly as her title indicated and she gave us a bag of items from downtown merchants. This cutting board from Wight Hardware ( a store long since gone) has been so serviceable and has long outlasted all the other gifts.

These are not the things I’d grab if the house were burning down. I’d grab my Bible and my purse. But I sure would miss these simple handy time-proven objects that remind me of many dear folk.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Little Drummer Lady

image000000

A window at North Myrtle Beach First Baptist Church

While on vacation last week we visited First Baptist Church, North Myrtle Beach. Visiting churches in other towns, other states, other countries not only is an opportunity to worship the Lord, but also is a great way to identify with the people in that locale. It is always interesting, whether we’re startled by the crowing of a rooster in Kauai at the very point of Peter’s denial, or hearing a sermon in two languages in Aruba, or being part of Youth Sunday in Bromley, England.

We (Charles, Revonda, and I) had found this church while heading north to eat seafood in Calabash, North Carolina. It looked like a lively church so we checked their schedule and made plans to be there on Sunday morning.

The church was warm and welcoming. We perceived there were many other guests that morning and wondered if it were usually like that. In fact, we found ourselves welcoming other guests to church!

The congregation grew and grew, several being seated by an usher who was a big jolly guy with a ready smile and handshake. I talked to a couple from Charlottesville, Virginia who, also, were there for the first time. Charles nudged me to notice a white headed lady who appeared to be preparing to play an organ. There was an air of excitement as members greeted each other and then a hush as the worship leader welcomed us and invited us to sing.

We were happily singing praises when I looked over at the “organist” and realized she wasn’t playing an organ at all. She was playing timpani drums! She was a dainty little lady and her hands moved with such grace from one drum to another with what seemed musical accuracy, each beat right on time. Once having discovered her, I could hardly keep my eyes off her. Her hair was white as a fluffy cloud, her figure slim and erect and her drum beats so effective, like exclamation points in a script.

The sermon was very good, the music wonderful, and the members caring. There was even a lady at the door as we left passing out loaves of bread to first time attenders. But I was sorry I didn’t have a chance to speak to the little drummer lady. When we asked the worship leader about her, he smiled really big. “Oh, yes, would you believe she’s in her mid-eighties?”

I thought he would go on to say the lady had been playing drums all her life and just wouldn’t give up. But what he said was that she’d only been playing for three years. He said she decided to learn to play drums at about 83 and had perfected her skills so she could accompany the other instruments, a brass ensemble, in church.

We came away blessed by this outreaching church, an inspiring sermon, other friendly visitors, two loaves of bread, and the humble, graceful “little drummer lady.”

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Lizard Inspection

IMG_1603

William Jr, Mattie and Grandaddy studying a lizard

This tiny innocent lizard was climbing our porch screen on the inside. I like the little guys but greatly prefer they stay in their natural habitat–outside. I’ve been startled enough times by close encounters with the baby monsters. So I asked one of the boys to take him out for me. The above picture shows a bit of the ensuing scientific conversation featuring a seasoned granddaddy, a grandson with curiosity and readiness for a hands-on experience, and a granddaughter who, like me, would rather see than touch.

I have two or three lizard stories, as I’m sure you do also.

One day when I was a kid I was indisposed in the outdoor privy when, horror of horrors, I felt a live thing drop from the ceiling straight down my back on the inside of my shirt. It didn’t take long for me to shake the little green lizard out and my screams accompanied my action.

As a young mother I caught a movement one day in my peripheral vision. Upon investigation I discovered a four inch lizard scooting around on the floor in my baby’s nursery. I tried unsuccessfully to trap him in a corner with a broom. Then I resorted to what seemed to me a logical alternative. I called my husband at the Animal Hospital. He came and quickly caught and released the lizard to the outdoors. But he let me know without doubt that I should have been able to take care of that problem on my own. In time, my baby boy became my willing lizard catcher.

Our interesting century-old house in which we lived for forty-two years had less then snug windows so little lizards often squeezed their way in, then couldn’t, or wouldn’t, depart. One day my mother, who was visiting from north Georgia, sat with me having a cup of afternoon tea in our living room. We were deep in conversation when I saw Mamma’s face change expression. She was looking above my head as she asked very calmly, “What is that on the wall?” My mother had single handedly killed snakes with a hoe so she wasn’t afraid, just startled. William wasn’t around so I had to catch the little fellow in a towel and throw him out the front door, hoping I appeared brave to my mother.

When our daughter, Julie, was sixteen she had mononucleosis which turned into bronchitis which turned into pneumonia. Her illnesses were never short! This one went on for about six weeks. Her nice upstairs room with white wicker furniture, wallpaper featuring climbing roses, and pink dimity curtains became a prison. We’d worn out every quiet game, studied “Romeo and Juliet” trying to keep up with school work, and I’d prepared dozens of smoothies until they weren’t exciting anymore. We went to the doctor one day thinking that, since she seemed better, the doctor would say she could start getting out. Instead, the doctor said one more week of bed rest.

Leaving her in her room crying into her pillow, I went downstairs to conjure up something consoling. Standing at the kitchen window, I prayed for some comforting idea. My thoughts were interrupted by high squeals and giggles from Julie’s room. Dashing back upstairs, I found my daughter standing on her bed trying to capture a green lizard who scooted upside down across the white ceiling, his ET head swiveling when he paused to consider his next move. Julie found the greatest entertainment in watching me scramble to catch that little fellow and, afterwards, we both collapsed into giggles, our depression broken by one green lizard, a very quick answer to my prayer.

One of my favorite books to read with the great grands is “All God’s Critters Got a Place in the Choir” by Bill Staines. The recurring lines are “All God’s critters got a place in the choir; some sing low, some sing higher. Some sing out loud on the telephone wire. And some just clap their hands, or paws, or anything they got.”

I’m not sure just how the little green lizards, even the ones with a red bubble under their chins, fit in the choir. Maybe it’s just the rhythm of their tails, or the amazing flexibility of their ET heads that places them. But I’m sure they do “got a place in the choir.”

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Christmas Carols in my Heart

IMG_1639

My little book is finally in my hands. I’m solicitous of her as if she were a child. I want her (or him!) to be a blessing wherever she goes, into whatever bookstore, into whatever home, into whosever hands. I want her, through the Lord’s power, to bring glory and honor to Him. I want him to make people happy. I want him to make people sing. I want her to inspire readers to write their own Christmas memories.

The blurb on the back cover reads:

“Carols line Silent Night, Joy to the World, and O Little Town of Bethlehem sing the truth of Christmas, that Jesus did come! But those carols can also remind us of the very taste, smell, and feel of Christmases past.

Brenda Knight Graham tells some of her stories of Christmas as a child, as a mother, grandmother and great grandmother, and invites you to write your own Christmas stories in this interactive Christmas journal. You will find yourself sometimes choked with emotion, other times erupting in laughter. But always the joy will shine through.

Christmas Carols in my Heart will help you find the Christmas carols in your heart.”

This little book has been twenty-one years in the making. It started as a grieving therapy after my mother died right before Christmas in 1997. Other projects and big chunks of Life have gone on since then too. Two other books were published, I had breast cancer and our family suffered the death of our daughter when she was only 42. But, no matter what else was going on, every January as I put away Christmas treasures, I’d sit down and write about another carol. After a few years my notebook was getting full and the thought occurred to me that just maybe these meandering stories might be a help to someone else, particularly if readers might be inspired to write some carol contemplations themselves.

It takes a lot of willpower and downright work to turn stories written in the passion of the moment into a readable manuscript. This book has been shelved in discouragement, brought back out of compulsion, cried over, bled over, and prayed over. At one time there were thirty carols in the book but after painful crafting it is now only a dozen. After a few near acceptances and several rejections, I did give up.

Last year on our annual Black Friday shopping jaunt Christi, my daughter-in-law, asked when my Christmas book would be published. “Oh, Honey, it’s not,” I answered. She looked at me with an expression near to shock. “But it has to be published!” Our conversation picked back up on the way to another store. “I’ll help you,” she said. “Okay,” I finally agreed, “but only if you illustrate it.”

Christi is a very busy attorney, not only at the law firm where she works, but also in  leadership positions in Birmingham legal circles. She is a wife and mother of three. I knew she didn’t have time for this project. I also knew her passion for art and had enjoyed several of her paintings. Christi said yes, and we were on another stretch of the journey with Christmas Carols in my Heart.

Seven of my books were published by traditional publishers who paid me royalties, rather than my paying them, who took all the risks, who made all the decisions. Should I do this? Self publish? I looked at a company or two and felt uneasy as if God were saying hold back. More prayers went up!

Harley Rollins, close family friend, got into the picture. He has spent his whole career providing Bibles and Christian books by the huge container load for third world country booksellers. He knows dozens of publishers on a first name basis. He recommended Dave Sheets and Danny Wright with Fitting Words.

In April Christmas Carols in my Heart was accepted. The excitement and frustrations of birthing a book kicked into high gear. All of a sudden those illustrations and final decisions about cover, format, everything, had to be done by the middle of June. Booksellers choose their Christmas books in June and July. The cover, at least, had to be ready for the distributor by June. Christi’s son, Thomas, was chosen to  play basketball with an international team in Spain. She burned midnight oil to finish her twelve chapter heading illustrations before leaving as his chaperone.

It was a crazy time leading to many funny little situations. There was the time when, on vacation (planned months in advance), we had to send some timely signed documents by Fed Ex to Danny. Our GPS took us right to the address in Petoskey, Michigan, only there was no Fed Ex there. We became acquainted with many more people in that strange town because of our quest for a Fed Ex. We finally found it tucked in the back of a huge office supply store.

I started to work responding to a copy editor’s critique only to learn that my “new” computer (six years old) was a dinosaur and my software was incompatible with Whitney Bak’s. The upshot of that was that not only did I have to purchase a new computer, painful to the pocketbook, but also I had to learn how to use it! Thanks to Amanda, my granddaughter, who answered so many of my dumb questions, I didn’t lose my hair! I longed for the times when an editor would return typewritten portions to me with red pencil critiquing for me to adjust and then stick back in the mailbox.

One of the very fun developments connected to this adventure was that we had a reunion with the Hughes family. Harry and his son Daniel were so generous in allowing me to tell briefly their amazing story.

At last, one day in late August, five boxes of books arrived at my back door. When I first picked up a copy of Christmas Carols in my Heart I hugged it to my chest. Then I really looked at it. It was beautiful, a truly lovely book. But it was so little. All those years of work for this slim little book? My husband, who’d endured much pain in the book’s development as he walked by my side, held me as I cried.

Then I realized again a very big truth. God can use small things. He can make much of our little. I don’t know all the ways He may use this slim volume of twelve Christmas carols, their stories and my contemplations. But I trust Him to follow the flight of this bright Christmas book and use it as a blessing.

You can order Christmas Carols in my Heart from Amazon or find it in your favorite bookstore, whether a small hometown store, or Barnes and Noble and Books’a’Million. Ask for it if you don’t see it. It should be in stores by the end of September. Please give it a review on Amazon.

I’d love to see you at one of my signings. Christi and I will both be at Rayann’s in Thomasville, Georgia, October 12, 11:00-1:00. I’ll be signing books at Books With Appeal in Cornelia, Georgia, November 1, 1:00-3:00, and at Center Drugs, Cairo, Georgia, November 8, 2:00-4:00.

If you’re aware of a venue where you think folks would enjoy a signing, please let me know at brendaknightgraham@gmail.com.

.

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

A Basket of Eggs

IMG_0399

Not the same basket!

My oatmeal box basket, though seeming so sturdy, tipped over and spilled three very large brown yard eggs as I approached the house. To my horror, each one broke on contact. What to do? My five-year-old mind went right to work figuring a way to hide the problem. It wasn’t easy but with the help of a shovel that was far bigger than I, I managed to bury the broken eggs.

My hope that Mamma would forget to ask how many eggs I’d found was quickly crushed. I stuttered only slightly as I answered that there were no eggs that day. She cupped my chin in a work-worn hand, looked straight into my eyes, and shook her head. I’d been discovered. She knew! Her lecture was against my untruth, not the silly accident caused by my desire to use my handmade basket.

If Mamma knew, then God much more! He knows when I nurture feelings of self-pity rather than looking at the positives. He knows when I tell half-truths to save my face; He knows when I put off doing things I know I should or when I’m less compassionate or too busy to notice another’s fear, disappointment, or distress. He knows when I’m jealous, or irritable, or rude, or too shy to speak boldly in His name to a neighbor or friend or stranger. He knows my thoughts afar, whether resentful or simply not constructive. He knows me!

It’s a fearful thing. It’s a marvelous thing. He knows me! He knows you. Don’t try to hide like Adam and Eve in the garden. Make your confessions to Him. He is ready and eager to forgive!

And Mamma did forgive me for breaking those eggs!

Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. Psalm 139:2

Lord, I cannot hide from your knowledge and I find I don’t really want to. It is a comfort to me to realize that you know me and yet you never give up on me!

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Skipping Stones

IMG_1469.JPG

Another time, another place, another river

It was an unplanned walk down by the Cahaba River in Birmingham on Sunday afternoon the day before Labor Day. It was a gorgeous afternoon with cool breezes blowing. The walkway along the river was easy to stroll or, as in the case of the youth, great for making competitive dashes. The clouds drifted overhead like giant sail ships in the blue, blue sky belying the tormenting hurricane Dorian buzz sawing across the Bahamas.

We had watched our favorite teams on Saturday, yelled and groaned, bitten our nails, and, old to young, enjoyed wins for Alabama, Georgia and Auburn. It’s a wonder we didn’t tear up the television and wreck the couch in our enthusiasm. Then Sunday morning we worshipped the Lord together at Canterbury United Methodist Church and feasted on home grilled hamburger and hotdogs for lunch. Some of us even played a game of Scrabble. Now when Will mentioned a walk by the river, most of us piled in the car for the short drive to a riverside park.

It was a historic family moment in that William Jr. drove us, his first time to drive our car, our first time to be chauffeured by this grandson who has grown so tall and responsible. He’s tall and responsible but he was just as eager to get down to the rocky river as his two younger siblings. And that’s when the fun really began.

As we watched the three kids choosing their stones and then trying to make them skip across the water, I remembered the exhilaration I felt when, as a youngster, my stone skipped even once when I threw it. It takes a certain skill to skip a stone. A lot depends on the shape of the stone. But a flat stone by no means spells automatic success. There’s the twist of the wrist, there’s holding the tongue just right, and there’s that mysterious unexplainable adeptness for making stones skip in wonderful little hops over the water’s surface.

William repeatedly threw stones that skipped once, twice, even nine times across the water. They made beautiful little sprays as they shimmered down the river in magical leaps. Thomas mastered the art of skipping but not to the degree William did. Mattie’s throws were like mine. Her stones usually chunked into the water like a frog but she did make two or three stones skip more than once. She greatly dislikes being beaten by her brothers.

Other features of the river scene included children swimming in deep pools above the rocky shoals; ropes in trees for people who were brave enough to swing out over the water; a closed-in dog park where our canine friends could safely socialize and exercise. The engineers of this fairly new park utilized “wasted” space around an intersection, a bridge, and the back side of a grocery store. Instead of being a place to ignore, to rush past quickly, this park offers lots of healthy activity along with beautiful old trees, a gazebo for picnics, and the rocky river.

We woke on Labor Day to another bright day teased by cool breezes. Several of us sipped coffee as we sat on the patio. Christi and her dad entertained us with descriptions of the five deer who had ambled across the “back forty” before the rest of us came out. Before long it was time to lace Belgian waffles with maple syrup, thanks to Mattie the waffle baker.

Before we started our six hour trip home, we watched the children perform various calisthenics and took some videos to remind us of time with all of them. Will blessed us with a nice cooler of venison to take with us (not hunted in the “back forty”!)

What a wonderful end-of-the summer weekend, so much packed into it, all so good, but none better than seeing the children skip stones on the Cahaba River.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Why Meet the Train?

IMG_1753

My Dad loved to tell about the time he and his mother were rescued by his grandmother even though she didn’t know what she was doing.

My Dad and his parents had come over Unicoi Gap by wagon in 1888 when he was only two and had settled in Habersham County, Georgia, on a few acres named Pinedale by his mother. He loved it there and wanted to stay forever but because of his mother’s tuberculosis, they moved on even farther south below Augusta on the South Carolina border. They left Dad’s aunt, Delia, and his grandmother at Pinedale.

Dad was very homesick for the hills of Habersham. When he became sick with typhoid, he cried in a feverish state to go back home. His mother, though herself so far from well, insisted on taking her son to Pinedale. Her husband, my grandfather, reluctantly agreed to her trip since he was teaching school and couldn’t leave.

The train trip was very hard for her but her number one goal was to make her son comfortable and get him safely home. The closer the train chugged toward Cornelia the more she began to wonder: what would she do when she got there? Cornelia was still ten miles from home. It was a very hot day and her sick child could not even hold his head up and he was a big boy, almost as big at eight years old as she was.

At this point in his story my Dad would rub his hands together in anticipation of the best part and begin pacing as he finished.

Aunt De and Grandmother were at Pinedale taking care of things. One afternoon as they sat calmly tatting lace in their small cottage, Grandmother suddenly put her work down, stood and walked to the window, sat back down, then cleared her throat. “De, we have to go to the train station in Cornelia.”

“But, Mother, whatever for?”

“I don’t know. But we have to go.”

They had to borrow a horse and buggy from a neighbor and Aunt De fussed pretty severely, sure that her mother had eaten too many mushrooms or read too many penny novels.

When they arrived at the station, there was their Gracie and her feverish eight-year-old and both ladies understood why Grandmother had felt such a strong “hunch.”

Dad would always end his story by saying “And you can believe that ‘hunch’ of Grandmother’s was just a coincidence if you want to.”

I think Grandmother’s ‘hunch’ was, in today’s language, a “God thing.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized