Sharon Randall: Memories with butter and jam
Memory likes to play tricks on us, taking us places we once loved, but haven’t seen in years.
It was early morning, first light, drizzling rain and cold. Something woke me, a distant thump. Maybe the wind? I was drifting back to sleep when I heard it again, clearer this time: Two little feet clomping down the stairs.
I knew that clomp well. It was the sound my 7-year-old daughter would make heading down to the kitchen to “cook breakfast” for her brothers.
A memory flashed across my mind: Spilled milk. Scattered Cheerios. A sugar bowl turned upside down. And three kids laughing hysterically, skating barefoot in the mess.
“Get down there quick,” I told myself, “or you’ll be sorry.”
I was trying to wrestle my way out of the covers when I heard familiar voices in the hall.
That’s when I remembered: The voices belonged, not to my little girl, but to my now grown daughter, her husband and their 7-year-old, Henry. Thanks to a series of storms, they’d had no power or heat at their house for two days, and had managed as best they could with candles and flashlights and sweatshirts.
But last night, they finally accepted our offer to stay at our house for a hot meal and a chance to do some laundry.
I didn’t need to worry about a mess in the kitchen. Henry’s mama would clean it up. His nana was going back to sleep. For some reason, I started dreaming about biscuits. And not just any biscuits, but the perfections my grandmother baked in her wood stove. I wish you could’ve tasted them. They were light as air and tender as a baby’s smile. We’d slather them in butter that I helped her churn with cream from the cow that I helped my dad milk, and topped with jam that we made with blackberries that I picked all by myself.
I’m not making that up. That’s what life was like when I visited my grandmother on her farm — picking berries, milking cows, churning butter, eating biscuits, reading books, chasing lightning bugs and swatting mosquitoes.
What more could a child ever want? I loved it. I especially loved those biscuits. I wish I knew how she made them.
Why do we take for granted that there’ll always be time and opportunities to teach and learn all we want to share and know?
I learned a lot from my grandmother: How to read. How to crochet. How to sit in a porch swing at the end of a day.
But I never learned how to make biscuits her way.
I’ve made them my way, of course, from various recipes, with varying success. Usually, I just mix two cups of all-purpose flour with a tablespoon each of baking powder and sugar; grate into that a stick of butter; stir in 3/4 cup of milk; pat it all together, cut it in squares and bake at 425 for 10 minutes or so until they look like biscuits.
They’re not bad, but not half as good as hers were. My kids would wolf them down. They weren’t crazy about the biscuits, but they loved butter and jam.
Suddenly, I heard Henry down in the kitchen laughing at something his mama said. Again, I smiled into the pillow. I rolled out of bed and went downstairs to hug my guests and bake a batch of biscuits.
They weren’t great biscuits. But they were good enough. We slathered them in butter and jam. Henry ate two and kept eyeing mine until I gave him half. Maybe someday he’ll say they were the best biscuits ever.
The memories we leave with our children and grandchildren and all of our loved ones — like the biscuits we bake and the stories that will be told about us long after we are gone — are never made with perfection.
They’re just made with love.
Love makes everything better. Even without butter and jam.
Sharon Randall can be reached at P.O. Box 416,
Pacific Grove CA 93950 or at www.sharonrandall.com.
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