Thursday, March 26, 2015


Amanda Bridger is Paxton's favorite caterer, and took to the kitchen from the time she had to stand on one of her Mammaw's tall flour cans to stir things at the counter.   She's always known that she has not the slightest talent with needle or crafts, and just didn't get any gift with handwork, though her mother and her other grandmother turned out exquisite crocheted pieces and she still has beautiful sets of embroidered pillow-cases and dresser scarves. She's always loved the IDEA of sitting with needlework, and would thread up and sit with her hoop of Sunbonnet Sue, imagining herself an Austen character, feet together on the tiny footstool and her imagination supplying her with a dainty bit of cambric and a spill of silken skeins down her skirt.  Perching there in tatty shorts and shirt, trying to balance hoop and cotton square and snarly floss, lost a lot in the translation from that genteel young woman in the long skirt and slipper chair, her perfect posture and immaculately white hands threading and stitching as she chatted by the fire.   That ingenious little goldish needle-threader and tiny stork scissors her Aunt Cilla had given her had a constant way of slipping through Amanda’s sweaty fingers and grubby knees into her chair or the floor, and:

“While you’re up, how about put on a pot of coffee?”

“Check on that roast real quick, would you?”

 “You want to get us a glass of tea while you’re in there?” 

  “You think those clothes on the line might be dry by now?

“You know, we haven’t had one of your pound cakes this week." 

All perfectly understood and carried out, down to the folding and putting away, and the getting out of the big old Sunbeam and the sugar and flour.   For she was a Kitchen Person, all her days. It was just her PLACE---not in the realm of “I know my place,” but in the confidence and security of her way with a cake or a casserole, or the simple act of peeling fruit or strewing sugar on a crust.  It was comfortable in there, just her and all the shining copper, the measuring cups nested and the spoons cuddled in the drawer with their knack of making  things come out about the same every time.  You could just DEPEND on cups and spoons.

And in between cake and laundry and getting supper on, there were a few errands to run, as well.

Sure, I can run up to Edelstein's for another skein of that floss---just let me take the wrapper to be sure.
She’d ridden her bike up and over the railroad and down to the dry goods stores, with a tiny paper wrapper on three or five or all her fingers like little dressing-stalls as she rode, picking up yarn, bringing  back Pall Malls and a tiny silver can of Garrett, stopping to drop off a completed set of coasters or Coke-panties at Mrs. Carpenter's house for bridge that afternoon, the little folded tissue packet still giving off the crisp-ironed scent of Faultless in the sun.

But her Mother Miss Floy and her Mammaw J---they were hearty-raised Southern women, in fresh cotton housedresses, housework all in order and their hair neatly pinned, Mammaw’s stockings garter-rolled just below her knees, and a little wisp of Avon Cotillion in the air, barely noticed beneath the scent of a bubbling pot of peas or pintos from the kitchen. 

Mammaw J crocheted every day that Amanda knew her---she’d go up to Leon’s Drugstore now and then, get out a crochet magazine from the rack, and take a good look at the doilies and tablecloths pictured in black and white.  She never read the directions---she may not have known exactly what they meant, but she could take in every stitch in those pictures, from number to kind, and turn out perfect images of what she’d seen.   It was one of those magical things to Amanda, like Rainman counting the toothpicks in a glance, but it was also the way she saw and captured words, or how she knew what time it was, or when a cake was done, simply by the smell, so she just accepted Mammaw J’s gift as a given.    Amanda just happened not to have BEEN given THAT one.  But she can COOK.

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed reading this! My Aristocratic boss lady had a pair of scissors like those in that first picture.