This weekend I was standing in my kitchen, deciding what to fix my husband and son for dinner (our daughter just left for college). I eyed the tomatoes on the counter from our garden, and I decided that I should try to make homemade tomato soup.
Then my mind began to think of my grandmother and my Uncle Ray. Recently, I had interviewed my Uncle Ray because he is a wonderful man and he also has had a number of health challenges. In my line of work (capturing life stories), it just comes naturally to want to record the people I love while there is time.
During the phone interview, my Uncle Ray said, "Mom was a terrific cook. She had some specialties that I particularly liked. Her steak was to die for. We grew up in an area that was an orchard originally. There was farmland too. There were a lot of trees with apples and cherries and pears. She canned a lot of fruit. We had a garden and we raised a lot of vegetables that she liked to can or freeze. One of her specialties was canning tomato juice which she would pull out every once in awhile on a cold winter day. I used to deliver newspapers, so I would go out in the cold and deliver papers, and when I came home she would make a meal out of her tomato juice, like cream of tomato soup and hamburgers. That was a great meal after you’ve been outside in the cold. It was wonderful to come home to that."
Here I was in my kitchen, thinking of my grandmother making dinner for her own family. I felt a connection. So I grabbed the cookbook and did my best to create what I thought would be similar to my grandmother's tomato soup recipe. It turned out pretty good---probably not as good as grandma's way with homemade tomato juice, but good enough and my husband and son seemed to enjoy it.
Then as I eyed an apple on the counter in the kitchen another story from Uncle Ray came back to me from that interview, and it made me think of my great-grandfather (whom I never met). Uncle Ray said, "My grandfather used to babysit us once in awhile when Mom was teaching school. They lived next door to us all their lives. When I was going to school, and my mother went to her kindergarten class, I would go next door to my grandparents, and they would feed us breakfast before we went to school. Because we grew up in this old orchard, my grandfather had several fruit trees on his property, and I still remember him picking an apple and standing there in the backyard, cutting an apple up and giving me pieces of it. That made me a lover of apples. I still have an apple a day."
I don't know why, but that is just such a sweet memory for Uncle Ray (and now for me). I like to think of my great-grandfather, standing in the backyard of our family home, cutting up an apple and handing pieces of it to Uncle Ray. It shows the love and care of a grandfather for a grandson. A simple gesture of love. It shows that our family has been taking care of each other for generations. Again, there just seemed to be a connection there. The fresh apple on my kitchen counter has more meaning than it had before because I know this story...because I asked my uncle to share.
The family stories do matter. They really are priceless and they should not be lost or forgotten. Get them while you can.
Beth Sanders, Founder & CEO, www.lifebio.com
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