There is a stanza from Barbra Streisand’s –The Way We Were
that plays in my mind and heart as I look at some of the treasures that have been left to me by the women who came before me. These treasures have no monetary value to an outsider, but to me, they are priceless and are housed in a personal museum…my home. The lyrics I speak of are these:
“Can it be that it was all so simple then
Or has time rewritten every line
If we had the chance to do it all again, tell me, would we, could we”
I wish I had my grandmothers and my Aunt Mary with me for once last chat. Though I picked their brains and gleaned their stories while they were still alive, I now hunger for more. As the song asks, “Can it be that it was all so simple then or has the time rewritten every line?” Yes, life was simpler, they told me that themselves, but simple does not imply life was anything but hard. I have heard their stories of hardship and know that I will never face the struggles they endured, but life was simple, life was good and my treasures remind me of that.
As I was looking through some old cookbooks and canning guides that were dated 1938 and 1939 respectively, out tumbled two wax covered, cardboard gingerbread cutouts. As I fingered this gem, one that I had never come across until that moment, I could close my eyes and see my Grandma Helen’s gingerbread boy cookies with their raisin eyes. I never questioned how they came to take their shape and form. I envision her placing this cut-out on top of the freshly rolled dough and taking her knife ever so carefully, as she cuts around the cardboard, transferring them onto a baking sheet. The recipe is even written on one of those cutouts. After the cookies were cut out, these cardboard gems would be loving wiped off and tucked back into her cookbook until their services were needed again. My gaze sweeps over the gauze apron that was hand stitched over a hundred years ago for my great, great Aunt Mary when she was three years old. I was blessed to have this woman in my life for 54 years. She died shortly before her 100th birthday. Pinned to that apron are the handwritten recipes from these three women, but my treasure doesn’t stop..there is more…recipes belonging to other female members of my family that are no longer here today. My Aunt Lorene’s oatmeal cookies, Aunt Lizze’s pickled relish and green tomato preserves, Aunt Romana’s peach cobbler and the list goes on…In my kitchen there are two recipe boxes that belonged to both my maternal and paternal grandmothers. I imagine them swapping recipes at family gatherings and the many stories that were exchanged in the process. For now I am content to let my imagination fill in the blanks of the things I forgot to ask, but if they were here, would they ask the same question, as the one in the song?… “If we had the chance to do it all again, tell me, would we, could we” I would like to believe that their answer would be yes, if they had the chance they would do it all over again. For this much I know…I am so thankful and grateful for the memories that are woven in between gingerbread,aprons and more!
As you walk into my home, the first room you encounter, we call the library. The walls are lined with old photos that outline my heritage. I cherish each item that represents the people that came before me. From my Grandpa Weber’s plaid hat, to the locket that belonged to my Grandmother’s biological mother who died when she was just a toddler. I have birth records, marriage licenses, and the diploma my Grandmother received in 1925 when she graduated from the 8th grade, the farthest her education would take her. It is my hope that my grandchildren take the stories they have been told and pass them down to the next generation…”Memories that cease to be shared, disappear forever.”
Upon my walls, within these frames
Are countless stories and endless names
Horton, Adams, Weber and Pahl,
The person I am, is part of them all
Florence and William from England they came
Bearing the Walton, from which I am named
Their hardships were many, the tears that they shed
Never enough, endless mouths to be fed
I see who I am, as I gaze at my wall
A composite of them, the short and the tall
The photos are old, but those faces I see
Are gifts from the past and are priceless to me
(Cindi Walton 2015)
Have you ever noticed that as you pour a glass of milk, the first drop and the last drop of milk become part of the whole glass? Families are a lot like that, or in my mind they should be. I am the oldest of four children, four distinctly different kids. We are separated by age, gender, eye color and personal tastes. Our interests and talents are greatly varied. Many people may not even guess that we are related, that is until there is a crisis, joyous event or life altering occurrence. It is at that point that you will see the Walton kids become one glass of milk. It won’t matter who shows up first or who arrives late, just like the drops of milk, we become one glass, one unit that is a family. We are not orphans by any means because our parents represent the glass, the vessel that holds us together, the stable container that has been there my entire fifty seven years on this earth. We are by no means perfect and there have been upsets over the years that have left some of us on the outside of the glass like spilt milk, but in our family, we wipe up the mess, dry the tears and pour ourselves back into the whole. Our family is the epitome of “Don’t cry over split milk” because we will rally, we will support and we will always make sure the glass is never so full that there is no room for someone. How is your glass of milk today? It is never too late to appreciate the glass of milk life has given you. I challenge you bring a plate of cookies to the next family gathering and look around at those you love. Go ahead dip that cookie, get involved, and share a laugh because nothing goes better with a cookie than a tall glass of milk. These are just my wondering thoughts as I pour a glass of milk and think of my family. I love them all, each and every drop, or should I say one of them!
We are all familiar with the saying, “IT IS, WHAT IT IS”…but what if it isn’t. Very rarely is something just “what it is.” There is always more, another chapter, another lingering thought. Even when we finish a book or a movie, the ending isn’t the end. We wonder what if the characters had taken a different path or we discuss how we think it should have ended. Life as a whole, is a continuum of what has happened in our past. Only in death, does life this side of heaven become completely finished. We learn to cope, separate issues and even shelve situations in order to move on. All of these things are important and necessary to “get on” with our lives but any way you slice it or dice it….it is never a case of “it is, what it is!” We may change jobs, go through a divorce or broken relationships, but every experience molds us, shapes up and defines us. If that is the case, then “it is, what it is” is another piece of the puzzle that forms our lives and completes our life’s picture. We all have highs and lows in our lives, but the majority of life is made up of “it is” moments, that are strung together over time, relationships and ultimately escorts us into our death….it is then, that “it is, what it is” is complete and finished. So I have chosen to embrace all of my “it is” moments, the good, the bad and the “what was I thinking?” They have shaped me, warped me, refined me and in the end have spit out a better person, or so I would like to think. Life is short, take your “it is, what it is” moments and find a way to connect them…in the end, your puzzle will be complete and your passport of life can then be stamped…”Well Done!”
Walking through Home Depot, I stop and run my hands over the strips of paint samples. There is a color to match everyone’s taste in decor and style. Colors often make me think about my feelings and my moods. They somehow describe my moods. Colors may be subtle or bold just like our individual personalities. As I hold up a vibrant yellow, I think about summer sunshine and tall cool glasses of lemonade. The varying shades of blue can take me above the clouds or into the depths of the ocean. Have you ever asked a child to describe the color of a fairy, unicorn or even a dreaded monster? I can promise you this….a child can vividly imagine in color and that is easily verified by their artwork. If our hopes and dreams and even our biggest fears can be associated with colors, I wonder this….what is the universal color of hope, love and kindness? How dark is the color of hate or the hue of death, as each of us will face it one day! But for now, I take the vibrant sunshine yellow swatch up to the counter and patiently wait for it to be mixed with the tinted base. It will take a small windowless bathroom,that is tucked away in my basement and to shed light upon its dreary shadows. I envision splashes of blue with the hand towels and a brown rug on the floor, just the right shade of a warm sandy beach. Color, it surrounds us, defines us, and can conjure up feelings of love and security. If this is indeed true… What color is your world today? If you don’t like it, then maybe it’s time for a change. We all know the walls won’t paint themselves, neither will your life change unless you pick up that brush and make the first stroke! Go ahead…do it…color your world today!