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!