Plane rides get me. The unexpected traveler you meet, the meal surprisingly good, the discovery all around. My husband just shocked me with a suprise trip to Scotland, (where I am now, unable to sleep -writing) with no reason, holiday, or special occasion to attend. However all the unexpected in life, can be good even when it is not.
A quote from the book, Bread and Wine, got me thinking back to another unexpected occasion in my life, and my family experience at the table.
“I can’t imagine life without a table between us” Shauna Niequist from Bread & Wine
My grandmother’s table, oh how good it is. However, it was the most stressful time in my life to that date; I have had more, but this was the first major mess of my emergent life. I abruptly moved into my grandmother and grandfather’s farm house in an attempt to reclaim my foundation.
The house is white with shiny black painted doors and always the smell of rain. My grandfather’s garage had the distinct scent of leather and oil.
You should know he was avidly a hunter of mice and moles. He cherished long walks and drank red wine for his heart. He would have the most clever walking stick and the heartiest laugh you’ve ever heard. I could hear his laughter as a little girl, already tucked in bed rolling up the stairs and tickling my ears with joy. He had a garden, that fed us well in the summer. My grandmother Phyllis would have us “wild cousins” pick the green beans in the garden and then later in the day before dinner we would snap the tough ends off together.
Our summer visits were even sweeter because of the fresh strawberries and raspberries that grew in the fields around their property.
I loved what they loved, because they loved me.
The covered front porch wrapped around the house and summer meals were eaten outside rain or shine. The screen door had a perfect sound of wood on wood smacking like our lips smacked up grandma’s apple pies. Upon passing through the porch door you were immediately in kitchen. The best welcome to any house if you ask me. Grandma’s counter was special, a portion of the counter dropped down to a child’s height and I always believed she had designed it just for me. She would spend hours in the kitchen teaching her little granddaughter, and I was the only one. She would often throw me a ball of pie dough to make my own mini pie. Grandpa was faithful to eat anything I made, even if I mixed up the sugar and salt. He was fully impressed with my skill and with hearty praise encouraged me even through my mistakes.
Grandma would always have cookies in the cookie jar, and something delicious on the stove. She is the cause to my love of cooking. I am the effect of her intention. She is my first mentor. She not only taught me to cook but to sew and to pray. The richness of her story telling was better than the richest chocolate cake. And if you were lucky she would extend bedtime at night with her delightful childhood stories.
The dinning room was formal. A round table with linens and lace a massive picture window with a beautiful chandelier- the old fashioned kind that suited the country farm house just right. Manners were imperative. And the table was always well set. The warmth of that room and the wealth of laughter it held nourished your soul while you quieted your hunger.
Now, back to the unexpected- yes it was when nothing but unplanned difficulty filled my high school years. Pregnant at 16- I found the only home of refuge was back to the porch, the kitchen, and the table at grandma and grandpa’s house. They took me in, with very few questions and regular family meals.
In all the uncertainty the clearest thing I knew: I was hungry.
Grandma and I would meal plan after classes at the local community college to discretely finish my high school career. Menu planning was our language.
I didn’t know what I would do. Adoption, or should I brave it all and emerge into the world of parenthood so young? I would be 17 when my baby boy would arrive. The decisions were massive with life long consequences and truthfully dinner planning was so much more simple with immediate gratification. I learned to make gravy, and pies, and in general just bustle and fuss over something besides my life. We made messes we could readily clean up afterward.
Those honest hands that worked the dough and formed the noodles- held my hands in prayer at the table. The quiet phrase from my grandfather “we take care of our own, Charity” and the gentle way in which he spoke them were heavy quilts to my cold and broken heart. And one night under the weight of those quilts in the upstairs room I did it. I raised my hand, no words no preacher’s voice calling me home. Just home itself and the warmth of all those meals of love- a home of grace and mercy to return too like the prodigal son heading home to his Father.
This blog is in honor of my grandmother Phyllis and and grandfather Barry, two of the most comforting people in the world to me. I love you. Charity.