It's funny how often certain phrases or situations, which come up in conversations, will trigger a childhood memory. For me, when those happen, I am transported, in my mind in such an all consuming way that, for that minute, I am there again. It is like a strange kind of time travel.
For example, my younger sister is the one of us girls who seemed to inherit all of our Auntie's baking skills, my older sister, Pat, got her green thumb.
I can get by if I need to at either, but it is never outstanding. My skill lies more-so in the creative cooking arena, of being able to make decent, or even delicious, edible, and nutritious food out of unlikely, but available, ingredients! (And there is a real reason that I have so many fake flowers and plants!!! Lol)
I am using that example, because my younger sister, Nicky, just made me this scrump-dilly-icious Chocolate Pound Cake with German Chocolate icing – FROM SCRATCH. YUM!
And talking to her about one of the grand-baby's reaction to it, sparked so many different things. But one was this memory of our Aunt Elsie.
She was our mom's oldest sister. So, as the oldest girl, she was also the one privileged to be Grandmother's assistant in the home-making things, while everyone else went to the cotton field to assist Grandpa. Meaning that Aunt Elsie got the superior training in all things Home-Ec related.
But the memory I got, talking about the cake, was about her pantry! Yes there WERE cakes in her pantry! All home-made, and professionally decorated!
That place was a place of total wonder and magic for me. The walls were lined, to the ceiling, with canning jars, in a veritable rainbow of colors! The dark, dark Green of Mustard and Collard Greens, beside the lighter greens of Green Beans, Sugar Peas, green peppers, morphing into yellow-green of banana peppers, followed by Yellow Squash & peppers, then, yellow-orange peppers, beside Orange Carrots, and Red-Orange Sweet Potatoes, the Red-Red of tomatoes, and Peppers & Strawberries, Darker fruit colors varying from deep burgundy of beets, & Cranberries, then the purple of prunes, blackberries, followed by beans and peas of varying shades of brown, black, beige...both dried and cooked... not to mention jellies, salsas, spaghetti sauces, Gravies, - you name it!
There were also clear glass square jars of cookies of all varieties, and fudge bars, that somehow, magically, stayed full! And cakes, of all description, under clear domes, that came out after every meal! Barrels of freshly ground grain for baking... it seemed endless and awe inspiring. She also had an extensive root cellar, in the basement, with these cool bins that pulled down from the wall, that were full of dirt, which is where she kept fresh cabbage, potatoes, onions, Carrots, beans, and the like... and strings by the dozens hung from the ceiling drying peppers, garlic, various berries, and anything else she wanted dried.
The woman worked full time in the mill, kept a full, year 'round garden of vegetables and fruits, grew apple, persimmon & pear trees, kept hogs, turkeys, ducks & chickens (for eggs & meat), (& bartered with hunters in the family for deer), had cows for milk, bulls for meat, goats for milk, and a couple of sheep for wool & meat! Plus she kept her yard full of flowers, kept her house sparkling clean, hardwood floors, throw rugs and all, and canned, baked, made the family's clothes.... she was a working marvel of a woman!
The only "modern", labor-saving, devices she had was an "ice-box" in which actual ice blocks were purchased to keep food cold, and a washing machine with a hand wringer! Well, she WAS also blessed to have indoor plumbing and electricity. So they had Water Closets instead of outhouses. That was luxury back then! And slowly the water closet transformed to the bathroom with a claw foot tub and regular toilet that flushed without a bucket of water being poured in!
The particular memory I had though, was just the wonder of that pantry! Mainly because of how she arranged the colors in the jars, and the sheer order of the place, and the productivity that was evident just spoke deeply to my spirit.
Also, over time, that pantry became my hiding place from my annoying older cousins when they were home. They either never figured out that's where I went, or Aunt Elsie wouldn't let them invade my space, or they were just glad to be rid of me! Lol
There was an overhead light that hung from the ceiling, with a little dangling chain, that I could reach with the step stool (that stayed in there, so she could reach the higher shelves, of course). That stool was my desk. I would climb up, turn on the light. Stand in awe of the color burst for a minute or two, and then either sit on the first step of stool with my coloring things on the top step, or I would just sit on the stack of burlap bags in the corner and read my library books.
It was a truly enchanting, safe space, and one of the better childhood memories I've remembered, as the relentless stack of the well suppressed childhood (most NOT happy....) have emerged. So I was glad to wander down memory lane this morning and visit that magical place one more time.
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