By Stephanie Freybler
I am blessed to have my grandma’s old recipe box, complete with her handwritten recipes. I don’t use the recipes often, but I still treasure them.
The other day, as I was looking through the recipe box as I sometimes do, I focused on one recipe card for her strawberry salad. I looked at her familiar, perfect cursive writing. I studied the ingredients, and I looked through the steps that this particular recipe required.
Then, I found myself wondering about the times she made this recipe. Did she make it often? Was it reserved for special events? Perhaps she made it once, and it wasn’t as good as she thought it would be. Maybe it just never made it into the trash. It could be that she made additions or substitutions but never amended the recipe card, because she always remembered how she liked it.
I started pondering what was happening as she wrote this down. I imagined the entire picture as she was carefully writing out this simple notecard:
She was getting over a cold. She was still not feeling 100%, but much better than she had been. She hoped that my grandpa would be spared from the cold that everyone else in the household got.
Ken and Kathy were playing, for the time being, while my mom, a toddler then, was sitting at her feet, and Lori was napping. The baby was getting over the same cold she had, and she needed a good nap.
A few weeks ago, she found the recipe in a magazine, and she made it for a potluck at their church. She had set the cut-out section aside, meaning to write it down when she had a few minutes. She found it again as she was cleaning off the counters, and she decided to write it down today and cross it off of her to-do list.
Right after she writes in the name “Strawberry Salad,” Ken and Kathy start fighting over a toy. She sets the pen down and goes over to break it up.
Once they’ve been separated, the only solution she really had at that point, she peeked her head in on the sleeping baby then came back to the kitchen table to finish her task.
About halfway through the ingredient list, the toddler at her feet wants to climb onto her lap. Grandma gives her a little hug with an “I love you,” then gets back to work on her recipe card.
It’s a little more difficult to keep her handwriting uniform with a child on her lap, but she moves the notecard a little to the right and is able to do it.
Just before she writes out the instructions, the phone rings. She sets down the pen another time, and she carries my mom on her hip to answer the phone. It’s my grandpa, telling her that he may be late from work tonight.
She sighs; it’s been a long day, and she was looking forward to their evening routine with him home, but there isn’t much she can do about it. As they talk, the toddler wiggles down off of her hip and runs off to find her favorite stuffed animal.
Just then, she hears Lori crying. Naptime is over. She says goodbye to Grandpa and gets the baby out of her bed.
She changes Lori’s diaper and snuggles her a bit while she feeds her her after-nap bottle. While they’re snuggled in on the couch, my mom runs in to ask if Grandma can put a dress on her doll.
She holds the bottle with her cheek and gets the outfit on the baby doll, which had been a gift from my grandma’s mother — my great grandma.
The older two are now arguing again, and she helps them find a way to compromise and play together before she sets the baby down on a blanket and gets back to her recipe.
She’s finally done with her recipe card, and she tucks it away in the recipe box. Now, it’s time to start dinner.
I don’t know any of the actual details of this strawberry salad. She may have written it down as her kids were teenagers or maybe after she was already a grandma. I’m under no illusion that this is actually how her day went.
Nevertheless, this what I saw as I looked at her handwritten recipe for strawberry salad. As I envisioned her day, I enjoyed seeing her as a mom similar to myself, with all of the moments that are tucked into each task completed.
I’d love to know the actual story behind it, although I’m certain she wouldn’t remember the details of that day, even if she were here for me to ask.
Her days were probably not unlike my own, full of trying moments as well as heartwarming ones. Just like I do, she got things done while other little moments happened around her. She reacted accordingly and went about her day, just like I do.
Each moment of our lives has a different dynamic to it — how we’re feeling, what we’re thinking, what’s going on around us. Each of those things is so very real and important as we’re doing them. Then, those little details fade into the background to be forgotten.
Behind every memory that we hold onto, there is so much more to the story.
Stephanie Freybler is a stay-at-home mom of five kids. She writes about embracing imperfection and getting rid of “mom guilt” on her blog at www.racingelephants.com. She’s been published on the blog Her View From Home. She embraces personal growth, and tries to see things with a sense of humor.