Dusting Off Memories

Dusting Off Memories

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks Mom

Dusting Off Memories

The happiest moments of my life have been the few which I have passed at home in the bosom of my family.
~Thomas Jefferson

As a young girl growing up in rural Alabama, I never understood why my mom spent so much time baking bread from scratch, and making my brother and me help her. One day every other week was dedicated to making bread. My brother and I were in charge of grinding the wheat into flour while Mom prepped the remaining ingredients. One of us would pour the wheat, a little at a time, into the hopper while the other turned the handle, and then we would trade positions as our small arms tired. The grinder was attached to a metal desk in the corner of the dining room, and occasionally the vise-like grip would loosen and we would have to stop and tighten it.

Eventually, Dad bought Mom a motorized grinder and our routine changed from pouring and grinding to grinding and keeping the flour dust from settling on everything in the kitchen and dining room. Despite our best efforts, the flour dust always went everywhere. So at the end of the day, while the bread was baking in the oven, we dusted the white off every coated surface.

While I went about my bread baking chores obediently, I chafed at the hours spent in the kitchen. I would wistfully look out the window as my horses grazed contentedly in the nearby pasture. I preferred to be outside with my horses. Looking back, I never appreciated my mom’s idea of quality family time with my brother and me, at least when it came to time in the kitchen.

Years have gone by and I have become a mother myself. Home is now North Idaho. I handle kitchen chores with more grace as an adult, but I prefer to leave most of the cooking and baking to my husband. He’s quite good at it, too.

It was on one such occasion that my husband, Christopher, was preparing dinner. I was at the kitchen table going through the day’s mail when our two-year-old son, Cody, asked his Papa if he could help him cook. Christopher smiled and tried to explain that the stove was hot and it wasn’t safe for him to be near it. Undeterred and resourceful, Cody grabbed a chair from the nearby table, and with all his effort began dragging the chair toward the nearest kitchen counter several feet away. While he struggled with the chair over the carpet, he made fast progress on the linoleum and soon had it placed in front of a counter centered between the refrigerator and the pantry. I sat there amused at his determination.

Cody climbed up on the chair and reached for a glass on the counter containing two dozen or so wine corks that Christopher had collected. With corks in hand, he pointed to the coffee pot on another counter. His Papa handed him the unplugged coffee pot. His final request was a wooden spoon. I put the mail down and watched as Cody carefully removed the glass pot from the brewer and placed the corks inside the pot. He stirred the corks with his wooden spoon for several minutes before returning them, and the pot, to the coffee maker.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“Helping Papa cook,” he replied with a big smile on his face. “I’m making cork soup!” It didn’t matter that Christopher was behind him tending food in the oven. He was in the kitchen helping his Papa and that was all that mattered to him.

At that moment, something from within me stirred. I thought back to all those times as a kid when my own mom asked for help in baking bread, and I had grudgingly, but obediently, complied. Perhaps she was trying to create something more than just fresh baked bread. Maybe Mom was trying to instill a sense of togetherness through family time. Maybe she was trying to create a few lasting memories.

As I watched Cody take the corks in and out of the pot and stir them with all the dedication of a two-year-old, I realized that he had created a forever moment for me, a moment in time in which Christopher’s willingness to let him “help” in the kitchen created a profound sense of family for our son. When the wine corks were sufficiently stirred to Cody’s satisfaction, I got up from the table and offered him the small counter scale. Weighing the corks would let the moment linger even longer as I savored my newfound appreciation for the experiences my mom had given me years ago in her kitchen, a place where I was welcomed and belonged, flour dust and all.

~Jenny R. George

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