food and stories

NaBloPoMo Writing Prompt: Describe an heirloom that has been passed down through the generations.

Maybe it’s being a product of divorce, or that I moved around a lot growing up, but I can’t really think of a family heirloom that has been passed down–something that had history and significance to me and my family. But then I started thinking, if I were to pass down something from my family to the generations to come, what would it be?

Being a Southerner living in NYC, I can’t see myself moving back down South for any long period of time. I can see, however, bringing my Southern roots into my family-to-come, especially with food and stories.

Sweet tea, black-eyed peas, and chicken and dumplings. Can it get any better than that?

I lived with my Grandma Billie for some time growing up in Alabama. She was a Southerner through and through. And, yet, despite (or, maybe, because of) growing up on a farm in Virginia, she had a lot of stories to tell. On her old typewriter, she wrote poetry and short stories. In the early ’90’s one of her short stories was published in Mobile Bay Tales: Essays & Stories About a Region. She decided to go back to college in her 60’s and get a degree in English. When I went off to college, she’d ask to read my textbooks when I was finished with the semester. She’d sit in a chair in her bedroom, with her feet propped up, licking a spoonful of peanut butter, reading for hours at a time. She had a painting she bought at a yard sale (she loved a good yard sale!) that she was convinced was a long lost Picasso. And when she passed away, I found boxes of the stories she had written and bound them in a book I titled Stories by Billie Moore. This I will pass down to the generations.

In the end, an heirloom isn’t about the thing itself, but the memories and history that it holds.

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