Tuesday, March 6, 2012

By the Hot Stove

Some of these stories from Mom's writing classes have notes on them from the teacher. I've basically focused on what Mom wrote, skipping over the comments. This story was apparently the result of an assignment to write a scene.

The notes from the instructor indicate the teacher believed this story didn't really fit that mold. But it's still a good portrait of the story's subject, Mom's mother, Elizabeth. The photo is Mom's mother with Mom's brother Elmer.

She stood by the hot stove, a long spatula in her hand watching the newly poured pancake batter bubble and sizzle on the hot skillet. Her huge stomach nearly touching the hot stove, and even with her short stature was able to see all the happenings in the pan. Always at the precise time she flipped the pancakes, again they splattered and rose in the hot grease. The cakes were never the perfectly round ones you see in the TV commercials or in magazine ads, but they were the best. The batter was made from sour milk, flour, eggs, with a certain magic touch from my mom. They turned out light and lacy around the edge, which became nice and crisp. Irregular in size, they managed to satisfy everyone's palate.

She was master of her kitchen, a simple cook but the things that came from that kitchen were so wonderful. A farmer's wife with many children, simply dressed in a faded cotton house dress and apron which covered her stomach. No matter the quantity of food produced, there seemed to be room for one or two more to sit down at the table to eat. If you came at meal time, you sat down and ate with us. She never seemed to be upset at someone just dropping by.

Many mornings were spent over a huge pan of bread dough, mixing the yeast into the flower and whatever. It looked like some sort of slop to be sent to the hogs. But with careful kneading and hours setting to rise by the warm fire, then kneading again, it was transformed into wonderful loaves of bread. She rarely baked less than a dozen loaves in order to feed the multitudes of hard working family members.

Most of her married life was spent in this kitchen. In the beginning, without electricity, she cooked over a wood-burning stove. It was huge and black and heated the kitchen in the winter and summer. We all had strict instruction to stay away from this stove. More in fear of her wrath, than the stove itself, we did. The old cook stove gave way to what we called a combination stove. It had wood burning capabilities on one side and electric on the other. The wood burning side was used in winter both to heat the kitchen and keep water warm. It also burned a lot of trash that would have to be disposed of another way. Soon, however, even this gave way to an electric stove. The freezer was a real luxury for Mom. Now she could preserve her meat without smoking it in the smoke house.

My dad towered over her by at least 15 inches, but Mom ruled the house. She had a quiet way of letting you know when she was displeased with something, and that was the time to correct your behavior. Through it all, she taught us to be independent, hard working adults, who could survive in this world.

Connie, Feb. 10, 1993

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