"A Kind of a Telephone Line Through Time"

Ahhh, how I miss spring break already. With our oldest in kindergarten, we decided that this was the year to take some vacation time and head to warmer climates for our break. Our destination: St. Petersburg, Florida. I have to say, despite a plane trip with our 18 month old who can't yet talk and who has decided that screaming is her most effective means of communication, it was an awesome trip.  We swam in the frigid pool (when I say "we," what I really mean is my husband and my boys), logged many hours fishing in the canals off the dock, went to the beach and built sandcastles, explored the parks, went for runs, spent some great quality time with my husband's parents, soaked up some much needed sunshine, and took a trip to Legoland.

The highlight of the trip, however, was getting to spend some time with "Papa," my husband's 95-year old grandfather.  It was amazing to see four generations all together again.  The first time I spent some good time with Papa was when I was right out of college.  My on-the-job-training sent me down to Florida about 30 minutes from where he lived.  He was kind enough to pick me up at my hotel and take me to dinner.  When our waitress was taking our order, we realized that she had a very heavy accent, making her a little hard to understand. Papa asked her where she was from, and when she replied, "Monaco," Papa jumped right into speaking German. (Not that you need a geography lesson, but Monaco is in the French Riviera.) Since Papa didn't speak French,  he took a gander that the waitress might speak the neighboring tongue of German.  He was right, and I was amazed at how easily their conversation flowed from that point on.  You see, Papa learned to speak German during World War II, and here we were decades later having a momentary glimpse into his past. After dinner, Papa took me to his home, showed me an interview he did for a BBC documentary called The Royal Ace, and told me story after story about life in the war, about his love affair with his wife, about his family, and about his travels. He is one of those people that you learn more and more about every time you are with him. I never feel like I have enough time to get all of my questions answered, and our spring break visit was no exception.

We stayed at Papa's house this visit, and there were so many things that piqued my curiosity.  One of them was this recipe (see photo) for She Crab Soup that was stuck on the refrigerator. Where did it come from?  Is this something that George's grandmother made often?  How old is the recipe?  Why is it still hanging on the refrigerator?  Another fascinating find was a cookbook that was handwritten and xeroxed and had lots of cooking stains on it.  The cover was missing, but I could tell that it was put together by some Air Force wives more than 60 years ago...and it was well loved.  I wish I could've known my husband's grandmother.  I would have loved to sit down and hear her stories about being in WWII, about raising her four children, about cooking Italian feasts for her family, and about her love affair with Papa from her perspective.

That cookbook got me thinking about the Indigo Girls song, "Virginia Woolf"?  It talks about Virginia Woolf's diary being "kind of a telephone line through time."  The lyrics of that song have always intrigued me...not in a creepy, speaking from the grave kind of way, but in a really sweet connecting through generations kind of way.  I love finding someone's old treasures, especially written ones, and imagining that person in a specific moment in time gone by. 

Which leads me to "Nena."  Nena is my 89 year old grandmother.  Fortunately, we get to spend almost every holiday with my grandmother.  Those holidays tend to be filled with happy chaos and lots of family but not a lot of time to just sit and talk.  Right before Christmas this past year, my siblings and I had the idea to have my grandmother's story recorded. We gave her a book that asks questions about her life in the hopes that she will write down her memories so that they'll withstand time. This past weekend, Nena was visiting us in Winston-Salem, and I took the opportunity to sit down with her one on one and talk about the book and ask some questions.  I heard about clothes that her mother sewed for her, spending time in the kitchen with her grandmother, and about her starting school. I am excited to see the finished product and have her story penned in her own handwriting for generations to come.  I know that my grandmother thinks that some of the questions in the book are things that aren't "important" or aren't things anyone would want to know, but I have told her that I totally disagree and that every detail of her life makes her exactly the woman that she is today.

Who knows, maybe one day, 50+ years down the road, I'll have a granddaughter wanting to talk to me on a "telephone line through time," wanting to know about my life, about my journey, about what was important to me, about the details of my everyday.  This blog is a start.  My hope is that when I am wise and gray, I can look back and see myself...my true self...my not trying to be anyone other than myself, self, but see that self progressing as a kinder, more hopeful, more loving, more gentle, more patient, more compassionate, more adventurous version of myself than the one sitting here today.

This week, I will be stepping up my game and trying some new recipes...I am so excited that the weather is right to start grilling again!!  So, send your recipes my way, and stay tuned for the new and improved blog coming soon.

Happy Cooking!

Popular Posts