Family Recipes

By Rose Ann Sinay

Family Recipes

My grandmother, Alice, was a big, tall woman with a penchant for going shoeless. With her high cheekbones, long dark hair (parted in the middle) and her wide, leathery feet (the only trait I inherited from her), she could have passed as a full-blooded American Indian. My sister and I were very excited at the prospect of being part Indian. We were so disappointed when we learned she was 100 percent English – not a drop of Indian blood. Our dreams of being related to Pocahontas were dashed.

I saw my grandmother only a handful of times. Our nomadic, military life made visits with her short and infrequent. Unfortunately, it also hindered our familial bonding.

The wife of a farmer and mother of thirteen children, Grandmother wore a lifetime of hard work and hard times on her face and in her walk. I had heard enough stories to know that she and my grandfather had been dirt poor, land rich and too proud to accept help. Everyone who lived under their roof had their assigned chores. My mother (at an age when I played with dolls) spent her days in the fields picking cotton, vegetables, weeds and rocks.

Grandmother’s days were spent preparing meals on the cast iron stove for her large family. Everything was fresh from the garden (or the barnyard) and made from scratch. She constructed and altered clothes, over and over again, to fit the next child in line. The list of responsibilities must have been overwhelming – one that couldn’t be dwelled upon – just completed, day after day. Despite her worn and weary appearance, her voice had a surprising lilt and her eyes held a warmth that I longed to bask in.

By the time my mother had left home, married my father and I came along, I was number umpteen on an ever-growing list of grandchildren. Babies were a fact of life. I was neither special nor un-special.

Each short visit to the Texas homestead precipitated a reunion of my mom’s brothers and sisters and their families. My arrival simply added one more to the many cousins who ran through the rooms of the old farmhouse playing hide and seek. My grandmother always seemed to be at the other end of the house with a football team of bodies between us. I figured I would have to catapult myself over them to speak to her. I wondered if she knew who I was in the sea of children’s faces.

My mother’s assurances that Grandmother knew who I was and loved me, as she did all of her grandchildren, did nothing to relieve my doubt. I sometimes added a note to accompany my mother’s monthly letters to her. I listed my achievements, my grades – anything I thought would grab her attention. I always ended my notes with I’m the one with the reddish brown hair. It was the only attribute I could think of that would distinguish me from all the others.

When I was thirteen, we returned to the United States, after having lived overseas for five years. Perhaps, it was the emotional roller coaster of puberty that made me obsessive about making a connection with my grandmother. I dreamed of having Christmas at Grandma’s house, baking cookies with her, or just having special times together. I decided if I had to hurl myself over the goal line to talk to her, then that’s what I would do. She probably didn’t know my name. I was going to change that.

Whether it was happenstance or my mother’s doing, we arrived at my grandmother’s to an almost empty house. I was excited. I would have her all to myself. I was expecting something special. Instead she handed me a bag of carrots.

“You can help me make dinner. When you finish peeling the carrots, you can start on those potatoes.”

I was crushed. We silently began to prepare dinner.

“So you’re good in English and history,” she said, cutting up a chicken with a few quick strokes of a knife.

“Yes,” I replied. “I love to read.”

“Your mother always had her nose stuck in a book. She’d pick vegetables with one hand and hold a book in the other.” She laughed. “Reading was her favorite thing to do. You remind me of her when she was young.”

“Really? Do I look like her?” I asked.

“There’s a resemblance.” Grandmother arranged the chicken in the pot adding my nicked up vegetables, and then, turned her attention to me. “I’ve always thought you looked like your great grandfather. That’s where you get the red in your hair.”

She noticed, I thought happily, forgetting that I reminded her of the color of my hair every time I wrote to her.

We finished preparing dinner and chatted about whatever came to mind. My grandmother was a no nonsense woman, full of facts and strong opinions on just about everything. I suspected I took after her, after all.

“I made us a treat,” she said after we cleaned our prep area. She took two bowls of Indian pudding out of the refrigerator and added a dollop of cream.

I finished mine in record time. “It was delicious. I’d love to have your recipe,” I said, politely mimicking my mother’s words whenever we ate at someone’s house.

“I knew you would.” She took an envelope out of the drawer. For Rose Ann was written in her large cursive writing.

It was the last time I saw Grandmother Alice. When she died, I pulled out the handwritten recipe and made our Indian pudding. I ate tiny spoonfuls remembering that afternoon when Grandmother turned into someone special instead of just a word. I put the card back in the envelope with my name written on it and placed it in its special box. After all, it was the family recipe.

About this writer

  • Rose Ann Sinay Rose Ann Sinay is a freelance writer typing away in sunny North Carolina. Her articles/stories have been published in The Carolinas Today, The Oddville Press and The Brunswick Beacon.

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24 Responses to “Family Recipes”

  1. Kathy Strunk says:

    I love your stories and the glimpses into your life. thank you for sharing!

  2. Toni Gotthilf says:

    Oh RoseAnn, That was such a beautiful story, it brought tears to my eyes!! What a beautiful memory, I love your strong desire to be noticed, not realizing you already were many times over.
    Just lovely!!

  3. Tammy Rohlf says:

    I always love reading your stories. You bring the characters to life and to remind us of all of our own special memories.

  4. What a great story. You sure know how to write and keep us spell bound !

  5. You sure know how to write and keep us spell bound.

  6. That connection, no matter how brief, created a special bond for you to treasure always. My grandma treated me to chocolate pudding, something I only had at her house. I enjoyed your story.

  7. Joan Eaton says:

    Brings back my fond memories of my grandmother. Another outstanding story of the heart!!

  8. Diane Q says:

    OK, once again you have me in tears. You have such a special gift. Thank you for always bringing us to past, loved memories.

  9. Joan Leotta says:

    Such a wonderful story! Well told
    Your writing is lovely as usual.

  10. Pearle Potter says:

    Rose Ann very touching. As others I was in tears. But it certainly made me look back on things in a different light ! Thank you

  11. Rose Ann says:

    Kathy, thank you for your comments and being a faithful reader!

  12. Rose Ann says:

    Toni–your words are so kind. Thank you. I’m so happy you enjoyed the story. Responses like yours makes me want to write more. Pretty soon you’ll know all my secrets, LOL!

  13. Pam Martin says:

    Ro, as usual another lively and we’ll written story . I don’t remember hearing that one before . See you soon .
    Pam

  14. Rose Ann says:

    Linda–yes, sometimes you have to hold onto the little things. Our one special time together was enough to last a lifetime. Thanks for commenting:)

  15. Diana says:

    Beautiful story! Brought tears to my eyes. I’m remembering those special times with my grandma.

  16. Kailey Konow says:

    So wait… we’re not related to Pocahontas? Always enjoy learning something new about our family.

  17. Arleene Bridges says:

    That was such a beautiful story.. Brought tears to my eyes also.

  18. Britt says:

    ‘Well written and sure to touch a chord in everyone’s heart.

  19. Rose Ann says:

    Sorry, Kailey. . . you are not an Indian princess–but you will always be our princess!!

  20. Rose Ann says:

    Maja– Thank you for your kind words. I appreciate your comments and so glad you like my stories!

  21. Rose Ann says:

    Pearle–I’m so glad my story moved you. It feel so good to share emotions with other, especially when they can relate! Thanks for commenting!

  22. Colleen Wenthen says:

    Beautiful Ro! I always have tissues ready when reading your stories. You have the talent to touch so many. Your grandmother was a remarkable women and you had special place in her heart for you. Bravo!

  23. Rose Ann says:

    Thanks , Colleen, for the extra kind words.

  24. What a great, warm story, but effortlessly couched in the framework of equally great writing skills. I look forward to reading more by Rose Ann Sinay.

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