My summers with Nana:
“Oh I smell something yummy baking in the oven.” I don’t even have to ask what it is. The smell of brown sugar, vanilla and chocolate only means one thing … chocolate chip cookies! I would turn the oven light on and just sit and watch, fascinated by the rising of the cookies and melting of the chocolate. Being my Nana’s sou chef (AKA mix, lick the bowl, spatula, mixers, taste tester and dish washer) brought and taught me some of my greatest lessons in life but as a kid, the baking and tasting was where it was at!
I spent my summers in upstate NY. Nana and I walked around the block just holding hands as I skipped and sometimes she skipped too. We never got more than a few houses down the street and we were always stopped. “Oh I see your granddaughter is here again, would you like some goodies?” uh, heck yeah! I was an athletic, skinny kid and goodies screamed love. Then she brought out 2 huge Zucchinis that were grown in her garden. I went from being joyous to sad in seconds. My job was to thank her and hold them. After all, we had just begun our walk around the block. I could have just ran across the street and dropped them off at the porch, but I guess it was like walking with a green trophy (but it was still a giant zucchini).
Off we go again, talking and skipping. 3 more houses down the street was as far as we got and we were stopped again. “Hi Gertrude! Looks like you have a helper this summer.” We laughed and smiled. “I’ve been waiting for you and have something special for you!” Whoo hooo …. Chocolate, ice cream or a tasty treat maybe I thought. We walk around to the back of the house and Mr. Laz gives me 2 HUGE zucchinis. REALLY??? I remember him looking at the 2 I was holding in my hands and he said, “well we have 2 bigger than those … here you go!” My Nana smiled, thanked him and off we go again, walking and skipping. I was totally confused. I just didn’t get what was fun about getting these dumb, big green things. Very frustrating to a teen.
We were on the otherside of the block now. I petted all the dogs. No cats as my Nana was afraid of them. I wondered if Nana called everyone on the block to tell them I was in town because after petting another animal, I heard “Gert ???? Is that you ???” Sigh, I knew what this meant, more zucchini. The woman invited us in her home. My grandmother and her would have a cup of coffee together and me tea … AH HA!!!! Tea means cookies are on the way … sadly no, but she did say, “wow, I see you have 4 good size zucchinis. I am really sorry I don’t have any, but how about some berries I just picked?” I loved berries! It was a welcome change.
We finished our walk and arrived home. My grandfather would be reading the paper on his recliner when I showed him our zucchini “goodie” bag. He chuckled. It seems I was left out of this joke and had no idea what was in store. I went into the back bedroom and sulked. There was lots of pots and pans clanging down the hall. I perked up … (sniffing twice), Oh my something smelled really good. I ran into the kitchen and asked what was she making. She said have a seat and started to explain.
Nana’s secret ingredient:
“Many people often follow the same recipe. However, everyone’s recipe usually tastes different. Your mom makes good cookies, but you and your brother only want mine.” You see, she was so right. With every bite, we felt her love. We felt her arms wrapped around us, encouraging and supporting us. When we were sick and homemade cookies arrived by mail, our spirits were lifted and we felt amazing. When we thought we were alone and no one cared, one bite proved to us we were wrong, we always had her.
“You need 1 zucchini to make 1 loaf of bread. The neighbors give me 2 so I can make one for them and keep 1 for us.” Hmmm, I thought. “You see just as you feel about the cookies I make for you children, the neighbors feel the same way eating my bread.” They sat on the porch instead of laying in their bed. They tended to their garden instead of the veggies dying (or themselves withering away). Her neighbors were lonely and usually forgotten about by family. Many simply loved to talk to my grandmother because she listened and that made them feel important. How excited they were for days waiting for her to come back with the bread. Finally they had something to look forward to. So off we went again delivering these warm loaves. This time I wasn’t sad because the goodies I wanted weren’t sweet. I had my grandmother’s hand, and the spirit of giving simply consumed me as it did her. We talked to everyone, they smiled, thanked and waved goodbye.
As I sit back and think of my life, how many people are forgotten, feel alone and just need someone to listen. We can all cook for ourselves, but for some reason when you receive, it always tastes better. Why, because they have included a secret ingredient … LOVE. Love can make you feel so many things. It’s time we ask ourselves … are we well stocked? Do we have enough of this secret ingredient to share?
I loved my grandmother and today wanted to honor her by spreading some of her love … my gift to you … her recipe … a family favorite. Enjoy!
Peace & Blessings,
Dawn Hurlebaus, Owner & CEO
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