Our recent trip to East Texas has brought so many memories of my great grandmother to the forefront of my mind. At this moment, there’s an old Adam’s Almond Extract bottle, filled with red dirt, on my kitchen windowsill. That’s how much I miss her and her home. I need her dirt, the dirt that used to get under my fingernails when I played in her yard and helped in her garden as a child.
My boys were so astonished, as they always are, by the quality of East Texas dirt. First of all, it’s RED. And second, it’s DIRT! Not rock, DIRT! In Austin, if you dig a half inch down, you hit rock. Many of our roads are carved through feet upon feet of it, which really, is a sight to behold. My guys were thrilled beyond measure though, just to get to dig.
Anyhow, I have been wanting, for some time now, to make a family book about my Great Grandma, my Momo, with my boys, like the one we made about Pop, but it has felt kind of overwhelming. There are just so many things about her that I want my guys to know. I haven’t really known where to begin.
It’s kind of happened organically though. Luke wanted a sewing project, so we settled on a small quilt.
This is his handiwork:
Um, okay, so, it’s a little abstract, but I love it. More importantly, he loves it. He was very proud, even more so when I suggested that we use it to wrap our bread at dinnertime.
I told him that he comes from quilting stock, and showed him this picture of my Momo making our wedding quilt:
We looked at all the tiny handstitches on that quilt, as well as one she made for me when I was little. She made them for all her kids, each of her 12 grandkids and her great grand kids too. She was quilting well into her 80s.
I started showing my guys some old photos of my Momo:
That’s her in the swanky black dress, with her arm draped over the wheel. That’s my Popo beside her. I think that the shadow on the ground was her brother taking the photo, and the other woman was his girlfriend. Super cool, weren’t they?
I told my fellas all about what a good cook she was. She used to greet us with enough food to feed a small army. Tamales, cornbread, turnip greens, black eyed peas, chicken and dumplings, tea cakes, fritters.
“What’s a fritter?” they wanted to know.
So of course, we had to make some.
In case you aren’t versed in the art of the fritter, it’s refrigerated biscuit dough, flattened, with a dollop of jam (fig preserves in this case), folded over, sealed with the prongs of a fork, and then fried and dusted with powdered sugar.
I was not prepared for how the smell of them sent me reeling. If I closed my eyes, I could have been 8 years old in my Momo’s kitchen.
We put one of her quilts on our picnic table, brought out her old china (which gets prettier everytime I see it), and had a breakfast of fritters, photos and stories.
I told them how my Momo named cows, how she had this laugh that shook her whole body, how she loved to dance and how she had these closets that connected her bedroom to the guest bedroom… so good for hide and seek. I told them how she didn’t have a refrigerator until well after she was married. I told them how she loved to play Trouble, and Rummy Q and Uno. So then we played Uno and ate more fritters in her honor. She would have liked that, I think. I can almost hear her laughing.