Wednesday, November 19, 2008


In everybody's Tapestry of Life, there are one or a few underlying threads which strengthen, brighten, color, uplift and hold together all the picture that's being embroidered. My own thread, skein---sometimes practically a ROPE---was my Mammaw. She was my Mother's Mother, who taught me about Life and Cooking and being kind to people and enjoying things, and to help other people do those things, too.

She was a wonderful, kind, unschooled Southern woman whose family, hearth and home defined her being. She married my Grandfather at the age of twenty-two, and her two children were born in the same little shotgun house they had started their marriage in. She raised an enormous vegetable garden every year, pushing a little one-man plow each Spring to till the rows for her beloved tomatoes. She had a rose garden which supplied bouquets for weddings, showers, parties and graduation centerpieces. Her dinner-plate dahlias won prizes all over the South, and are still cultivated by everyone on whom she bestowed a handful of the precious seeds. And she was in constant correspondence with either Burpee or Park seeds, for whom she carried on an ongoing quest for a white marigold.

She lived by the clock and calendar; one p.m. was Days of Our Lives, which she and two faraway sisters all watched faithfully. They were scattered hundreds of miles apart, and as soon as something exciting happened to one of those make-believe characters, one would call one of the others long distance, with the third getting spitting mad because SHE kept getting a busy signal.

Mammaw never forgot a birthday, a graduation, an anniversary, a special moment in any grandchild's life. For a while there, every grandson and great-grandson got a flashlight for every occasion; she believed in being prepared for whatever life brought you, and it was best if you could see it coming.

I still have several of her household items, and use them often---her rolling pin, the butter mold, the chipped Homer Laughlin pieplate with its gold edge just a whisper round the rim.

Mammaw had a "magic teapot" which amazed and confounded us all with its ability to keep pouring, round and round the table, with sometimes ten of us at Sunday dinner. I have not to this day figured out the secret. She would scoop a handful of Lipton leaves into the squat, eggplant-colored pot, a store premium from McCormick Tea Co. In went a potful of boiling water from the kettle, and she somehow poured directly onto ice in the big old heavy grape- etched goblets without getting a leaf into anyone's glass.

And everyone got a refill. Same pot, same tea, no more boiling water required. It went round as long as the dinner lasted, and there was no explanation. We were all married, had children and homes of our own, and STILL we homekeepers with our OWN tea pitchers to maintain could NOT figure out how she did it. It's still a family mystery to this day.

My Sister got the pot, but I have its twin, from an antiques store, just cause I wanted one like it. And the magic was not inherited, but the mystery, like all good mysteries, remains unsolved.

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