Tuesday, December 15, 2009

It Wasn't Mama in the Kitchen....

  It wasn't Mama in the kitchen, it was Pearly. She was the queen of the kitchen and everybody knew it, even Mama Frankie, my great-grandmother. Mama Frankie ruled the rest of the house with an iron hand but Pearly outranked even my great-grandmother when it came to that kitchen. Everybody...from the youngest to the oldest knew better than to mess with Pearly's domain. The only occupants who had a standing invitation were those who had not yet reached counter height. I have been back to that house on Main Street as an adult, and I don't know how she did it, but day after day she worked her magic and turned out some of the best cooking this side of the Mississippi River.  I ate my first table food with Pearly...probably field peas mashed nearly to mush accompanied by cornbread softened with a little pot liquor. Pearly was a diminutive woman, but she stands tall in my memory. Her tightly curled hair was cropped short to her head and was already turning from gray to white even when I was a little girl, but I loved the softness of her skin and the way that she always smelled faintly of baby powder. Even today I can close my eyes and see those heavily starched aprons in the tiny muslin print that she wore day after day. They had two deep pockets in the front and when she knew that we were coming, she would hide treats in those pockets -- usually biscuits that were cut with a special glass that was just the right size for tiny hands. She loved for us to come up behind her and reach our grubby little hands around her waist into those pockets. Pearly always acted shocked when we found the biscuits or sugar cookies she had hidden there and for years upon years I thought that we had actually taken her by surprise. I know better now.
   I also sadly know that I did not understand nor appreciate, not by a mile, the sacrifice of time and love that Pearly so generously gave my great-grandmother and our family. I don't think I ever paid a visit to my great-grandmother's house that Pearly was not there. As a child I would walk with my cousins from my own grandmother's house down the street to eat many a hot lunch with Pearly holding court in that tiny kitchen. I am ashamed to say that I did not know Pearly's family or the names of her children and grandchildren. I always assumed we were her family, and she never ever made me feel as if I were otherwise.
   Times have changed and much of the change was far too long in coming. I cannot go back and traverse those roads except in memory. But in my heart I say thank you to Pearly and the women like her who loved children like me and showered us with welcoming hugs, acceptance, and a love that bears a mighty strong resemblance to the love of Christ. Pearly took us, who were not her own flesh and blood, and made us feel as though we were her own. And for a fatherless little girl it was one of the special ways that the Heavenly Father wrapped me in His own loving arms. Merry Christmas, Pearly. I still love you.


  1. Well if that doesn't bring tears to your eyes I don't know what will! Then again, I might be a little sleep deprived...

  2. Ah- I've learned quickly to come by your blog with a kleenex in hand to catch the tears. I smiled to see the spelling of pot liquor. I though it was pot "licka" for the longest time.
    This is an especially treasured post...taking me back. One of my favorite lines is "The only occupants who had a standing invitation were those who had not yet reached counter height." Big hug to you today!

  3. I almost put pot likker because that is how I wanted it to be spelled! Love you!


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