Memories in the Cookie Jar

I really doubt this cookie jar ever held any cookies. It was much too special for that. It did, however, hold a very important place in my mom’s kitchen. I remember it sitting on the counter in Mom’s 1950s kitchen with its red and white vinyl chairs and metal table—-the kind they call “retro” now.

I didn’t know until I was much older that the cookie jar was a wedding gift to my Mom and Dad from Mom’s sister, Lois. Shortly after Mom and Dad were married, Lois was killed in a motorcycle accident when she was just 18 years old. I don’t think my Mom has ever recovered from this tragic loss. She abhors motorcycles to this day and she is 91 years old. When my brother and I were growing up, we knew the thrill of a motorcycle ride would not be something we experienced. Mom made that very clear. There was a time I did take a spin with my boyfriend who had a Honda. I was 17. Even though my Dad had given me permission to go for a ride, I resolved to never do that again. I just felt too guilty about deceiving my Mom.

I was often told by family members when I was young that I reminded them of Lois. They said I resembled her in appearance, but also there were similarities in our personalities. Apparently she was very outgoing and always smiling, laughing and teasing others. I was honored to be compared to Lois.  She was nicknamed “Shirley” by some folks because she looked a lot like Shirley Temple. I find it interesting that years later, we were often told by others how much our youngest daughter, Megan, looked like Shirley Temple.

I was very pleased when my mother insisted I take the cookie jar.  Now the Mickey Mouse cookie jar resides in my kitchen. Its a bit blemished by age and also because my Mom was a very clean person. Dad told me, a few years back, Mom had worn off some of the paint on Mickey with her obsessive cleaning. She kept a very clean house. Welcome to our kitchen, Mickey. You might not find it quite as spic and span as your previous home, but you will be treasured in your special place in our kitchen.

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Canaries in the Kitchen

I loved the canaries in my grandmother’s kitchen! I can still see my grandmother early in the morning with the sun streaming through the back, east-facing window in her kitchen taking the cover off the canaries’ cage. They would all be fluttering around and then they would regale us with their wake-up songs. What a happy way to start the day with those bright little yellow feathered friends and their songs.

I had great times with my Grandma and Grandpa Morgan. I can also remember how hot it was in their house and that silly cuckoo clock that would strike—no, make that, cuckoo—on the hour and again on the half hour. The worst was midnight—yep, twelve cuckoos! Now I can just chuckle at the thought of those cuckoos and wonder what ever happened to that clock. I remember my Grandpa coming to my bedroom door very early in the morning on those occasions when I spent the night with them. He would always say something like, “Hey, its time to get up! You gonna sleep all day?” in his gruff little voice and all the time smiling. He was such a cream puff! His German heritage was obvious from his short, stocky appearance. He usually wore leather house shoes, had a stubble of a beard, and a cigar hanging from the corner of his mouth. One would think him someone to fear until you heard his gravely little giggle and that little song he used to sing—-no words, just a smile and a little lively tune with a  doodle, doodle, doodle, do, do, doodle, doodle, doodle, do. After Grandpa woke me, I would go to the kitchen and watch the ceremonial unveiling of the canaries. Grandma would be in her apron cooking something scrumptious. Grandpa would say the German prayer and we would partake of a great breakfast to the sun and the singing of the canaries.

I was thinking of my times in my Grandma and Grandpa Morgan’s kitchen the other day when Noah, Ella and Jack were spending the day with me. We were listening to music as we had our lunch of macaroni, applesauce and green beans. I asked them what kind of music they liked. They immediately said Alvin and the Chipmunks! So, that’s what I found on Pandora. I was surprised I enjoyed all the songs which were also sprinkled with other tunes kids enjoy like Who Let the Dogs Out and Celebrate. We had a grand time! When we finished with lunch, we all got up and danced around the kitchen. I loved seeing the smiles on their faces.

Time changes things and yet everything stays the same. I’m wondering if one day, Noah, Ella and Jack will think back on our times in the kitchen—dancing to the chipmunks, coloring on the kitchen island, preparing food together, hearing the sound of the ticking pendulum clock. I hope so.

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The Little Treasure Box

As I walked from the back door of my Mom’s place the tears were streaming down my cheeks. “What is this?” I said to myself in surprise. It was another of those serendipitous moments, only this time it was rather bittersweet. It all started with a simple request from my Mom to take her recipe box. Of course, I would be happy to do that. She hasn’t cooked for many years now, and I was excited to have her delicious recipes.

I spent a few minutes looking through the files. There was the taglarini Mom and Dad fixed many times when I was growing up. The minute I heard them talking of having a dinner party I would think, “No! Not taglarini!” I hated the stuff. Now I would love to have my Mom and Dad fix a big casserole dish of taglarini. I might even like it. Tastes change as we age. Then there was the cherry pudding recipe. Mom was famous for her cherry pudding.  I never appreciated that one either. As I looked at the brown, splattered little card in her handwritting, I thought of the history of this recipe. My Mom worked for a judge and his family when she was very young-probably about 16. Mom’s family was poor. Her father made her quit high school and get a job. She cleaned house for the Kimmels and eventually did some of the cooking. She talks of them now so fondly and how they taught her so much. “They were my education.” she says. On the back of the recipe my Mom has written “Alice Kimmel’s Recipe – 1939” Then there are the recipes in my Dad’s handwriting. He loved to cook and he was really a good cook. It brought a smile to my face when I saw the Chinese food recipes. I remember Dad inviting us over many times for a big Chinese meal. We would walk into the back door, and their small kitchen would be wall to wall dishes and pots and pans. Dad was a messy cook and Mom would always fuss at him because she was the one who cleaned up after him. Well, the Chinese food was delicious, especially the egg rolls. I even found quite a few recipes in this box in my handwriting. Its nice to think of all the recipe swapping and talking we did—Mom, Dad and I.

So why the tears? I pondered that as I drove home. I guess one answer might be the idea that my Mom has given up cooking and her recipes. But, I think most of all, I know I won’t be walking in that back door at 225 Roosevelt—a house that holds many memories—and see my Mom and Dad busily working in the kitchen. Then the smiles and hugs as we all walk through the door. And, oh, the smells!!! My mouth waters as I remember. Then we would all sit down at the big, round, oak table downstairs and enjoy the wonderful food. I recall the faces around the table and the lively conversation. I remember my Mom and Dad’s face most of all. They loved having their family all together, whether it be our immediate family or the whole big clan.

So, I’m going to find a very special place in my kitchen to keep this little treasure box of recipes and memories. Every once in a while I’ll take it down, and run my fingers through the little cards to find something special to prepare for my family and friends. I’ll always think of the holiday dinners or maybe just a Sunday dinner my folks fixed for us. I’ll remember the faces around the table. I’ll think of all the love and care my parents put into those delicious meals for their family. I hope one day my own children and grandchildren will look through the recipe box and think of the history in those little, handwritten cards and the love their mother, grandmother, grandfather, great-grandmother and great-grandfather put in every ingredient and stir of the pot. I hope they will remember the smiles and hugs as they came in the back door. I hope they will see the faces around the table and recall the lively conversations that took place there. Maybe they will try a few of the recipes and…who knows…maybe they will even try taglarini!

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Kathi and Wayne - July 4, 2009

Today I am reminiscing about vacations past. I am not as well-traveled as my daughter, Nicole, but I have ventured across the Atlantic and even sailed the Caribbean while vacationing in Honduras with Nicole and Jack. But it was one of those serendipitous moments I so love I’m remembering today. Even though I have had some spectacular vacations, July 4, 2009 will always rank among the best. Last year Wayne and I spent our 4th of July weekend with our daughter, Megan, who lives in Washington D C. How I love that city! We have been there numerous times and it never fails to amaze me! This particular trip we decided to brave the crowds and go to the Capitol 4th celebration on the grounds of the U S Capitol. Yep, it was very crowded and we waited for three hours for the celebration to begin. We came prepared with our books, blanket, cooler and sandwiches. In retrospect, I don’t even remember the wait being so long probably because what came at the end of that wait was one of the most spectacular and enjoyable events of my lifetime. And, I’ve been around for a while.

We were entertained by Barry Manilow, Aretha Franklin, (did you hear me? I said Aretha Franklin for heaven’s sake)Natasha Bedingfield (who I didn’t expect to enjoy, but did very much-another mini serendipitous moment), the cast of the Jersey Boys, Michael Feinstein and the Muppets! It was a fantastic program! Then came the fireworks accompanied by the National Symphony Orchestra and a medley of patriotic classics. Mind you, I am sitting on the lawn of our nation’s capitol watching fireworks with a backdrop of the Washington Monument and the music I love! And what a finale. Its a Fourth of July I will always remember! Prior to our trip to DC I mentioned to Megan my dream of seeing fireworks accompanied by a symphony orchestra and patriotic music. Well, she made it happen and I will always be grateful to her for that experience. I can check this one off my list…wait, no I’m not going to do that. I hope some day to return and experience that patriotic swell in my chest as I watch the fireworks and listen to that beautiful symphonic music. I even enjoyed being in that crowd-Americans who so love our country.

As I put those three little flags we waved last year during the 4th of July celebration in my coffee table centerpiece, the memory shined very brightly and a smile crossed my lips as I recalled a day I will always cherish. Happy 234th Birthday, America!

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Having quite a lovely time in the UK

We are having quite a lovely time (as the locals would say) here in the UK. I met with my brother and sister-in-law in Detroit last Tuesday and we began our journey to the UK. The flight across the pond was uneventful except for one thing. Why do I always get the fat guy???!!! Yep, no sooner had I gotten all settled in my seat on the plane when a rather rotund young British man came down the aisle and sure enough sat right down in his seat next to me. I have yet to see another fat guy in England. Lucky me! No matter where I go, I’m always sitting next to the fat guy. Wouldn’t be a problem but let’s face it-its difficult enough to sleep on a plane without having the fat guy next to you spilling over on top of you. The normally tiny space becomes even smaller. I was determined, however, not to let the fat guy interfere with my mindset-which was set to fun mode.

We arrived in London, fun mode intact, on Wednesday morning and were met at the airport by my brother’s driver who delivered us 45 minutes later to Chuck’s flat in London. It might have been a shorter trip if it hadn’t been rush hour. Even though I felt pretty much like a zombie, Mary(my sister-in-law) and I managed to go to the grocery store and take a nice walk through the streets of London  to see such sights as Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, and Big Ben. My brother went to his office and put in a full day’s work. I have no idea how he did that because my brain was pretty darn foggy.

Mary and I took a bus tour of the city on Thursday. It was a great way to get a feel for the city. Wow! London is a beautiful city! I never thought I would see things like London Bridge, the tower of London (which isn’t really a tower), Parliament (which looked very much like Hungary’s Parliament we saw a few years ago). I didn’t even know the London Eye existed. Its a giant ferris wheel which is 40 stories high. Where have I been? Not in London! Mary and I even worked in a little shopping at Peter Jones, a department store in Chuck’s neighborhood. I learned on the way to the store Margaret Thatcher lives in Chuck’s neighborhood. Interesting. Chuck, Mary and I finished the evening with a bite to eat at a neighborhood pub, St. George’s. London/Pub=ya gotta have bangars and mash with a beer to wash it down. So I did! Life is good!

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A New Adventure

OK, I’m a little intimidated by the whole idea of writing down my thoughts and ideas for the whole world to view. Granted the whole world will probably not view this. And that’s a good thing!  I expect my family and a few friends might get a little enjoyment or maybe even a chuckle from our little chats here.  But, even though I am in my 7th decade, I still enjoy a little adventure. So, I’m gonna put one foot in front of the other and take off on this journey. I also get a gentle push from my kids from time to time to be a part of this new milleneum-or is that passe now? It is 2010. Nevertheless, my daughter, Meg, can take some responsibility for this, my attempt to have at least one foot in 2010. Yeah, I still have one foot back in the last century, but a good stretch can be beneficial. (By the way, Meg would be very disheartened that I used a dictionary to look for the correct spelling of milleneum when I simply could have used my spellcheck on the computer.) Why serendipitous? I’ve been told I am a bit of a contradiction. I must admit I questioned myself the other day when I realized I was quilting and listening to rap music. Plus, I just like the word serendipity! Something about the word-the way it rolls off your tongue, the lyrical sound it makes, the whole “surprise” element-just makes me smile.

I love to travel. I’ll be traveling with my brother, Chuck, and his wife, Mary, to Great Britain in a few days. I look forward to sharing our escapades in this space. I will also be sharing my thoughts as a baby boomer,  a grandmother, a foodie, a gym rat, a quilter, a reader…..oh, who knows what else! The thoughts are swirling in my brain now. Guess this won’t be as daunting a task as I thought. Life is good!

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