Yesterday, out of the blue, my son dude requested cake. This has never happened to my recollection. And he was specific, too. Vanilla, with sprinkles. Well, he also mentioned watermelon, but I agreed vanilla would be best.
Years ago, my dad’s whole family compiled a cookbook of family recipes. A true treasure, as now half of the contributors have passed away. In a twist of fate, I got my great grandmother’s copy when I got married. Her eyes had failed and she said, “Hopefully you’ll get some use out of it now.”
And, I’ve barely touched it since.
I only ever knew my great grandmother as my grandmother. “Gram.” Call her Granny and be prepared to see the finger of God. Her daughter, my dad’s mother, passed away when he was still a boy. Growing up there was always this mystic presence, an unseen reverent mist of her memory whenever anyone spoke of her, which wasn’t often. But enough to quip my interest.
To see a photo of her, you simply saw a mother with six children and cute cat glasses and thick from farm work. You wouldn’t say, “Wow, she was so glamorous!” Yet, she was classy. A touch of that Audrey Hepburn mystery mixed with country air and a good heart.
I’ll never forget when I first saw myself in a photo of her.
“Wow, that’s uncanny,” my dad and I commented. Gram had mentioned how I was like her, but how do you really know if you’ve never met the person?
Fast forward to having my own son, pregnant with my own daughter, leaning over the counter and perusing the family cookbook, and finding her recipe for vanilla cake.
“One Egg Cake, by Joanne Wilson”, it read. I remember Gram telling me, long before she herself passed away, the story of her daughter’s name. It was supposed to be JoAnn Mae. Mae is a family name. My grandpa didn’t realize and when he filled out the birth certificate, wrote out Joanne May. Gram was not pleased about this, but rolled with it.
Maybe this is why my heart is easily swayed towards the use of family names. People pass on, but names always live. Names are living memories.
Like a good recipe handed down, hand by hand, generation after generation. It’s fragrant and time tested and well loved.
How sweet it is for me, that though I never got to meet her, and neither will my own children, she still lives on. In my own downward smile, the smell of garden planting, big hugs, and One Egg Cake.