I heard the roar of laughter as my teenaged daughters sorted through the box of photos from my husband’s childhood. “Oh Dad! Look at your shorts! And your sister’s hair!”
At the bottom of the box was a yellowed newspaper article dated 1975, folded two or three times. One of the girls opened it up on our kitchen table and called to me. “Mom, Mimi was famous! Look! This whole page is all about her cooking for her family!”
I leaned over the two-page spread and saw my beautiful mother-in-law featured in an article while she was in the throes of raising her family, teaching Bible study, owning her own business, and volunteering in her community.
The writer of the article called her the Cook of the Valley!
Smack in the middle of the page was the 5th grade version of my husband eating his favorite dessert, a chocolate meringue called Light as a Cloud, while doing his homework. The look of sheer delight on his face melted my heart as I looked over at him sitting in our living room. Sensing the familiar ache waking up inside me, I watched him organize dozens of photos of his beloved mom, dad, and brother, all who left this earth way too early.
The losses never fail to make me, him, all of us, long for the warmth of his loving extended family. I glanced back at the article, looked at my daughter, and thought aloud, “How can we keep these family recipes alive so we don’t forget them?”
“Let’s put all of our recipes in one family recipe book and give it away as a gift,” my daughter said. And that’s what we did. For several weeknights and any free time on the weekends, my daughter and I compiled family recipes we’d kept over the years. We emailed relatives who knew a few secret family recipes: one or two were from my side of the family, some were from my husband’s sister, and a handful were from close friends whose comfort food made it on our list. Most were our family’s favorites I’ve made through the years.
My daughter found an on-line program to help us set up each recipe on 4×6 cards that fit perfectly in a purchased three-ring binder created for this recipe program. Honestly, the process took more hours than we’d first imagined.
The result: a family heirloom dating back 90 years, bursting with the colors of fall vegetables, creamy soups, and melt-in-your-mouth desserts.
Our efforts paid off in more ways than I can count. Just last week when I returned from a long afternoon of meetings, I was taken back by the scene and smells meeting me at the entryway of our kitchen. One daughter was perched on a high stool at the island doing her homework while my other daughter was standing at the stove stirring a pot of homemade granola. In the instant she placed a plateful of the yummy snack in front of her sister, my daughter caught my eye and smiled.
“Want some, Mom?” As I pulled up a stool, something new awakened in me.
It wasn’t an ache of loss and it wasn’t the opposite of loss either. I believe it was satisfaction, a feeling of fullness. We were hungry for the love of our extended family, and God multiplied what we had and called it good.