Kitchen Memories

I love the feel of soft, warm dough.

I was kneading dough for homemade cinnamon rolls this morning when the memories of my MaMaw in her kitchen sifted in.  When I think of her I feel as soft and warm inside as that dough.  It’s not the cinnamon roll ritual because, as far as I know, I’m the only person in my family that ever made them.  Something about being in the kitchen, rolling-pin in hand, takes me back to the lovely West Virginia mornings of my childhood.  I didn’t live in West Virginia but I did a good bit of my ‘growing up’ there.

My mother, sisters and I (and more rarely my father) would spend a week or two each summer visiting with my MaMaw and PaPaw in Coal City.  At times we would go there for Christmas but that was not until we were much older when gifts could be packed in the trunk of the car instead of waiting for Santa’s arrival.  But when we were small our visits were primarily in the summer once school let out and I have special memories from those days.

The temperature on a June day distinctly cooler than that of our Piedmont North Carolina town.   Afternoons on the back porch glider eating the best sour green apples on the planet with my mom;  freshly picked from the tree in the yard.  Learning to ride horses with my PaPaw at my side to protect his little ‘squirrel’ should the current resident equine misbehave.  But my fondest memories are primarily of waking up to the sounds and smells floating from the kitchen.

Sounds and smells that return vividly every time I think of those mornings.  I smell the percolating coffee, hear the bacon sizzling along with the soft clink of pots and pans.

Undergirding all of this activity was the gentle tone of MaMaw’s humming and singing of hymns.   She rose early each morning to prepare  a breakfast akin to a four-course dinner.   Always present were bacon and sausage, milk gravy and water gravy, homemade applesauce as well as blackberry preserves, and eggs – sunny-side up for my mother and PaPaw but scrambled for the rest of us.  There was safety and warmth in those early hours of the day that I don’t remember feeling anywhere else in my childhood.

My sisters and I slept in what then seemed like a huge four-poster bed.  A bed that, if we were there in the winter months, would be piled with quilts to keep us toasty warm.  Sometimes I was awakened by PaPaw tickling my nose with a feather plucked from the pillow under my head.  It was from this cocoon that I woke and savored the quietness and the acts of love taking place in the bright kitchen overlooking the back hillside and garden.

So as I mixed the dough, kneaded, and set it aside to rise I thought of those days that feel as if they just happened and are still within my reach.   Loretta Lynn sings a country song that came to mind as well – ‘If I Could Hear My Mother Pray Again’.  I would love to hear MaMaw’s humble voice saying grace over that morning meal.  “Our most gracious heavenly Father, Lord as we come before thee with thankful hearts that you’ve spared our lives into another day.  Thanking you for the many blessings of life. Watch over, guide, direct and keep us …….”.    I was too young to realize that some of those ‘many blessings of life’ were the ephemeral childhood days wrapped in the warmth of my grandparents’ love.

I wish I could wake to my MaMaw humming and singing in the kitchen once more.

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