Today is my grandfather’s birthday. Every year I make him a warm, old fashioned banana pudding because my grandmother refuses to make them that way. If you make old fashioned pudding, you realize why. After combining your ingredients, you spend the next 20+ minutes constantly stirring your mixture in a double boiler. It’s hot and your arm falls off. But…I make this sacrifice because I love my pawpaw and I believe he likes the pudding that I make. Though, he would never say if he didn’t like it. As I was walking into his house, bearing my gift, I thought,”What if every year pawpaw dreads his birthday because he knows he’s going to get the gift of the dreadful pudding?” I do have to admit that he probably did dread it for a while before I started getting better at making it. When the directions tell you to remove it from heat when it STARTS to thicken, it is lying. You stir that pudding until it has SNAP to it! (This is a term I learned today from my uncle who is a pastry chef.) I’ve been through several recipes, including Paula Dean’s butter banana pudding recipe, but today, I went to my great grandmother’s house and cooked in her kitchen using a recipe off a box of vanilla wafers.
My great grandmother’s (a.k.a. Granny) house has been in a state of disrepair for some time now since her death. If you have seen our video for The Chameleon you have seen this house. Most of the video was shot there; the creepier parts being shot in the attic. She used to tell us there were “haints” up there. It effectively kept me away most of my childhood. Nathan, my uncle, has been restoring the house and has kept as much original as possible. The living room linoleum is still there and in great condition, as is a shag carpet in a bedroom. My granny was a saint, and everyone in our family is so excited to be getting to have holidays over there again since she passed.
Let me explain to you a little more about Granny. She is someone I had the utmost blessing of calling granny. She was hilarious, she had the typical, wavering, soft but high pitched granny voice that increased in pitch as the end of the sentence came nearer. She quilted by hand, she cooked with lard, she kept BOTTLES of Coca-Cola in her fridge at all times, and she was loved by anyone and everyone that met her. Walking into Granny’s house is like walking directly into the best feeling memories of the past I have ever had. I grew up there because my parents lived two minutes away from her and anytime we had family get-togethers, we were there. We would all huddle by the wood burning stove in the winter and my cousins, my sister, and I would go climb trees and stare in awe and wonder at the outhouse in the back yard in the summer. Anytime it rained, we went outside and played in the puddles that collected underneath the edges of the tin roof and every summer, the first time I wore shorts she would say,”Aren’t you pushing the season?” Her food was the best food anyone had ever put in their mouth and there will NEVER be fried potatoes that tasted as good as Granny’s fried potatoes. I remember her looking across the road at her neighbor’s house and pooh-poohing the woman’s desire to keep as many animals as she did. Granny also lived next door to the church I went to growing up, and she would inevitably wash and hang her panties and bras up on the weekends. (Note to reader: her clothes-line was on the side porch facing the church.) My family always picked Granny up for church and would drop her off at her house afterward. Every Sunday morning, my mother would ask Granny how she was, and she would say,”Welllllllllll…..,” increasing in pitch and length every time,”Not so goooooodddddddd.” She was only in her 90’s. 🙂 Every time we dropped her off, mom would ask me to watch her to make sure she made it up her steps okay. One day I yelled and told mom that she had fell. After my mom slammed on the brakes and realized Granny was still going up the steps pretty as you please, she thankfully laughed with me instead of busting my rear. Granny’s plants were the best to hide Easter eggs in and her trees the best to hide the eggs with the dollars in them, especially when I got tall enough to reach them! Her outdoor refrigerator held a jar of pickle juice I’m sure she only kept because she laughed watching my sister and I drink it and pretend we had superpowers because of it. It was bread and butter pickle juice. She had a thing with glass bottles and she would make colored water to fill them up with and sit them in the window of the dining room. Such things were imperative to my childhood, as they were either the poison for your enemy or the cure to the disease when you ran around playing “pretend” with your cousins. And that’s what we did back then before the internet! I could go on for years about how awesome my life was because of Granny, and it’s still awesome every time I walk into her house.
I think Granny was 94 when she died. She fell asleep and didn’t wake up. Everyone has missed her since. Today, the joy of cooking in her kitchen, on the stove that she used to cook on is like therapy. I don’t think Tony ever knew his great grandparents and I think that’s a shame. My last great grandparent died the day before my birthday last year and I wouldn’t trade the sun for the days I had with my great grandparents. They were absolutely perfect in my eyes.
I’m not sure where I’m going with this post except that it was a great day for nostalgia and sitting on the front porch in the swing and drinking in my surroundings and remembering what that place means to me. I’m also thankful that she gave us my pawpaw! He’s the one that has the 1950 Oliver tractors that you may have seen me pulling every year. That’s our yearly weekend to bond. He’s also the one that Tony says I compare every man to because I think my pawpaw is what a REAL man should be. So, happy birthday to an awesome man who I am beyond thankful to have and who, because I make the “dreaded gift of pudding” to every year, caused a day full of great memories! This has definitely been a day of reflection and enjoyment for me.