Cooking and Grandma Vichy

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Francis Gafford aka Grandma Vichy

So today I got a text from a friend of mine saying, “Soooo…no blogs? Lol”  My response was, “No.  Sorry.  You were expecting one?  Do I usually blog every weekend?”  “I think so” she says.  I had to go back through my posts and see the last time I posted something which was Thursday morning I think.  I have been meaning to blog.  I’ve been wanting to, but I have a life too.  I actually left my house this weekend.  I also did some house cleaning and cooking.  I don’t seem to cook as much now that I started writing.  Which saves some money because of the fact that I don’t really know how to cook for two people, more like twenty two! 
The not cooking will surprise some that know me well.  I am always inventing new recipes or trying to copycat ones I have tried at a restaurant.  I’m usually baking up something from scratch or rolling wontons for soup.  Making dough for homemade pizzas or vats of rice and beans for my son and his friends.  I once had a friend of his ask why I always had rice and beans in the fridge when he came over.  “Because it’s cheap and feeds lots of teenage boys,” I told him.  In fact, I’m kind of known around town for making rice and beans.  Besides my son’s friends, many of my friends will request I make my rice and beans for get together’s and I’ve been known to make some of the best rice and beans late night, after the bar closes.  I’m good for having a couple of drinks and inviting the whole bar to my house for the after party.  I’m not sure if it’s the southern blood in my veins, but I just love to feed and cook for people. 
Cooking rice and beans makes me think of my Grandma Vichy (pronounced Veechie).  Francis was her name and she loved my rice and beans or as she sometimes called it “rice and peas”.
Back when my son was just a baby, she came to stay with us for a bit.  She was on oxygen then and had bad emphysema and I believe she had COPD, too.  She couldn’t get too far without taking a break.  I remember watching her go up a set of four stairs one time and she had to take a break after just two.  I know she had been a smoker in her younger days and she loved her whiskey, too.  My favorite was the story my mother told me about how as a little girl, her job was to hide the booze and cigarettes when the Mormons came to the house.  My grandmother was Mormon and would often tell me all about Joseph Smith, which my mother was never happy about because she was raising us Baptist.  I guess she was worried Grandma would successfully convert me but I always thought it was good to learn about all religions, then I could decide why I believed what I chose to believe. Many times when I think about Grandma Vichy, I think about how proud she would be with my cooking skills these days.  Mostly at the fact I have learned how to cook from scratch and waste less.  Grandma Vichy had lived through the Great Depression which explains why she had this need to save everything.  In fact most of it was rolled up in napkins, stuffed into plastic bags and pinned inside her bra!  If she wanted to give you some money she would reach into her bra and pull out treasures unknown!  Just thinking about it makes me laugh now, but it was just normal to me as a kid. 
The one time I will never forget, was the time I was cooking beef stew while Grandma was staying  with us.  It was my first time and I was probably about 20, my son was a baby and was sleeping upstairs.  I remember browning the meat in a cast iron pan and tossing it into a pot.  I was following the recipe directions as I had never made it before and wanted it to be just right.  I went upstairs to check on my son and when I came back down Grandma was in the kitchen.  She had added some water to the cast iron pan and was scraping all the flavor out to add to the soup.  I remember being so annoyed that she had messed with my cooking (I’m still that way in the kitchen) but I couldn’t say anything.  She was my Grandma, I could not disrespect her.  So I walked away, tried to stay calm and take a minute.  She said she was just trying to help and I of course continued to act like there was nothing wrong.  She was grandma, what could I say?  The stew cooked for a while and I checked on my son again.  I can still hear her voice and that strong southern accent when she apologized to me, “I’m sawry Lissa Beth.  I didn’t mean ta mess with yer stew.  I didn’t want it ta go ta waste.”  I remember feeling awful, I didn’t mean for her to feel bad.  She was just trying to help.  I didn’t want her to know I was upset.  It wasn’t until years later that I would wish she was still around to teach me some of her tricks and techniques on cooking.  It wasn’t until now that I really wish I had asked her more questions about the great depression, about all the history she had lived through. 
Growing up, Grandma lived between RI, FL and GA so we often wrote letters back and forth.  From time to time I will go back and read her old letters to me.  Like messages from heaven, I can hear her voice clearly saying, “I luuuuv you, Lissa!” In that southern twang, “and tell mama I luv n miss her too!”  I would be so excited to get that envelope in the mail and often times would open it up to find a single stick of Freedent gum enclosed.  It was one of those quirky things only Grandma did, kind of like the treasures in her bra.  So maybe I make rice and beans because it’s cheap and resourceful like my Grandma taught me.  Maybe I enjoy cooking and feeding people because it’s in my blood and it’s in my southern roots.  But maybe I just make them, because deep down, they make me think of Grandma and the times I used to cook for her.

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A mother’s love ❤

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We all think we know what love is, that is, until we have children.  Once you have a child and hold that baby in your arms, your whole perception of love changes.  I was 19 when I found out I was pregnant and scared as could be.  I had no plans to be a mother.  You hear people all the time say things like, she’s so smart, I can’t believe she got pregnant.  She had big plans for college , now it’s all changed.  When I think about the day I found out I was pregnant, I remember I was terrified.  I was scared to tell my parents.  I was terrified to let them down.  I had my whole life ahead of me.  I had no idea how I was going to make it as a mom.  I had no idea how I would even survive labor pains!  I was the biggest baby!  I couldn’t even swallow a pill let alone give birth to a child. 
Today, my son will be 18 in less than 2 months.  He will be close to the age that I was when I had him.  Only a year younger.  When I think about all the friends who were in college and working on their careers, doing things the “right” way.  I think about the fact that when young women get pregnant, people make comments about how she has “ruined her life.”  How it changes everything.  Yes.  It does.  But I can tell you this, I wouldn’t change a thing!!  I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it wasn’t for my son!  So what if I didn’t make millions.  So what if I didn’t have everything.  So what if my 2 year degree took me 5 years.  Honestly, I have never even used it!  What I did learn in the experience of being a mother is more than any book, teacher or lesson plan can teach me.  I learned so much more!  I learned unconditional love!  From the moment I held that baby boy in my arms, my whole world changed.  Everything I did was to make his world a better place.  It stopped being about me.  Yes, I had moments of struggle and difficult days.  Yes I made mistakes and was not perfect.  But honestly, I don’t feel like I sacrificed anything from my life because I wouldn’t be me if it weren’t for him.  I wouldn’t have met the friends and coaches and people in my life today if it weren’t for him. 
When you hold that baby in your arms there is a feeling like no other.  It can’t even be described.  You can’t help but be worried when something bad “could” happen.  I finally understood why my parents would worry when I didn’t call to check in, I was fine!  Now I know that worry.  All you want to do is protect them.  You want to shelter them.  You learn all the bad and terrible things that could happen and when they are not in your sight, you think of these things.  You want to comfort them when they are hurt.  You want to feed them when they are hungry or you think they should or could be hungry. You want to hug and kiss them when they have a boo boo.  You feel their pain when they are hurt, scared, heartbroken, sad, stressed.  You just want to take it all away and make it better.
I remember thinking that once he started getting older I wouldn’t worry as much.  Yeah right!  The closer your child gets to becoming an adult, the scarier it is!  You realize you have less and less control over things they do, decisions they make.  You pray more often. You pray for their safety.           You pray they make good decisions, but mostly, you pray that you have instilled in them the ability to make the best decisions for themselves.  You pray they will “just say no” to drugs.  You pray they will not get in a car after drinking.  You pray that they will put their all into everything they do, because as a parent, you know your child can do anything they want!  Including becoming president if they choose.  These days, I wish my son could be president because I know he could do better than Trump!
So after almost 18 years of being a mom I finally get it.  I finally understand why at 37 years old my parents still want me to check in with them once in awhile.  Why even when I was 30 years old my dad would wait for me to get home late at night.  Us parents don’t mean to be like this!  We just know all of the crazy things going on in this world.  We know that every time we hear sirens and our child is not right there we think of the worst things that could happen!    We don’t mean to be this way it’s just that since that very day that you came into our lives, the day you were placed in our arms, we found this love that we had never known before.  This love that made us care more about ourselves than ever.  This indescribable feeling like no other.  So please, just humor us once in awhile because one day, when you have children, you will finally get it. You will hold that baby in your arms and understand the meaning of unconditional love. 
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