My Mamaw Jones was my great grandmother. I remember her in bits and pieces like watching an old home video on a projector. She was a strong, independent woman with an even stronger Southern drawl. Words that only took most people one to two syllables to pronounce were drawn out into four sometimes five parts—bringing a bit of propriety to even the most mundane word.
She wore pearls 24-hours a day 7-days a week—even to bed, and always addressed my great-grandfather (her husband) as Mr. Jones. Her hair was long and silver, but she wore it in a perfect bun on her head every single day. Coffee was her beverage of choice—having no less than 6 cups a day. She wouldn’t have been caught dead in pants or without panty hose. When she said she prayed for you everyday—she meant it. In fact, she never hesitated to pray anytime or anywhere the Holy Spirit moved her, which sometimes meant out loud around unsuspecting people. My Mamaw Jones had large chunks of scripture memorized and she would never hesitate to recite it should you need to be reminded of what “the good Lawd says.”
Mamaw Jones would wear an apron when in the kitchen, even if she was just pouring tea, and always (I mean always) had a hot Sour Cream Pound Cake on her stovetop—her special recipe. I think about my Mamaw every time I make her famous pound cake. I feel like in some way I’m honoring her by continuing her tradition. Recipes in the South are like that—vessels connecting us to people and memories. A passed down recipe is considered an heirloom and the stories shared while enjoying the food were always the best part. An old Southern family wasn’t complete without a few good storytellers and Mamaw Jones was our very own Eudora Welty. Her stories evoked a spectrum of emotions and all were almost entirely half true. She’d say, “Embellishment, after all, is the difference between a good story and a great story.”
The movie Big Fish, which Mr. Right and I watched over the holidays, summed up storytellers like this, “A man (or woman) tells his stories so many times that he becomes the stories. They live on after him, and in that way he becomes immortal.” For my Mamaw, that was her plan all along—for her memory to live on through her recipes and stories—and so it goes.
I resolve, in 2018, to be a stronger, more prayerful, God-fearing woman who writes down recipes, wears pearls, and whose stories are worth remembering.
Happy New Year!