I don’t have a lot of treasures, really. I’ve learned, over the years, that the material things can vanish in the blink of an eye, and its the people that matter. I’ve been burned out too, which left me with almost nothing, and that leaves an impression about the importance of those material things that runs deep.
One thing I do have, which I actually received after the fire, after my daughter was born…is a cookbook. It’s not a fancy cookbook, it’s a typical church/community cookbook from a place where I’d never lived. My grandma bought it and sent it to me, as she knew many people from the area. So what is so special about it?
Inside of that cookbook, she wrote a letter, randomly adding a line or two to the upper or lower margin through the book. It was a typical gossippy-grandma kind of letter, telling me about this person or that person, the little things that a grandma might include in a regular letter.
Her handwriting was rough, nothing like it had been when she had been younger and stronger. It drifted up or down and showed signs of a shake in it too. She sent me that cookbook in the spring for my birthday.
She died that fall.
It was the last gift she sent me, and I treasure that cookbook. I’ve used it too, not a lot, but on occasion it has provided me with recipes that were useful. Many of the cookie recipes are the recipes that my daughter remembers from her early years.
It’s a 3 ring bound cookbook, like 5×9 in size, with a vinyl cover that washes off easily when cookie dough spatters onto it from the mixer. I’ve never written in it myself, but I know that when its me that dies at that future point, that is going to be one of my daughter’s treasured keepsakes. She has already made jokes about how she’s coveting that cookbook. (I guard all of my cookbooks when she comes to visit…you never know what she’ll manage to connive and take home with her!)
I have decided that now that I am a grandmother, it’s time to start creating some special things to pass on to her, and to my granddaughter. Cooking is a huge part of our life, but so are the stories…stories that traditionally, we’d tell as we spent time together cooking in the kitchen. These days, those story telling times are getting harder to have in all families, and those oral histories are fading into the distant past, lost forever.
Make a book of memories and recipes for the daughters of your family. Fill it with the recipes they love and remember, the ones you love and remember, and the ones you’ve tried yourself. Write down the stories, just like you would tell them, and put those in it too.
Talk about cooking with your grandmother and aunts. Tell the story of the first meal you made to impress someone, what you served, and how it all worked. About your first cake and what kind it was. About the horrible kitchen disasters. About the embarrassing kitchen stories that you would NEVER ever EVER tell a stranger.
Keep filling that binder…but don’t give it to them yet. Mark the covers with their names, and set them aside in your kitchen or office to share YOUR life, to gather more stories, to absorb some of the very essence of who you are and where you came from.
That book can turn out to be a legacy that will be treasured forever. It might be in a plain dime (oops, dollar!) store binder, maybe you’ll decorate it with stickers and such, and maybe it won’t have anything but a label with the recipient’s name in it. Inside, you can put photos, stories, and recipes.
A 2″ binder can soon be stuffed with memories, and you still won’t have shared them all…but they’ll be there for the day when a stroke leaves you silent, or a car accident suddenly claims you…or you suddenly die for whatever reason. When they are left behind, without you to hold them, they’ll have a book that holds many of the things that you believed in, that you did, that you remembered…and that is going to last them for the rest of their days.