Thursday, July 27, 2017

Beginner's Guide to Joyful Living -- Day 27

Each summer my mother sent me away to live with my Southern grandmother. Mimi loved Jesus, lemon pound cake, old fashioned roses, and afternoon tea. As she hummed "In the Garden," she brewed a pot of tea, then made vignettes for us with china and fresh flowers. She also created a world, a little pocket of calmness, a place for a young girl to gather strength. 

While we drank tea, she cut me a huge slice of lemon-apricot cake and told me about her sisters, her mama, and grandmama. Mimi brought history to life. I saw a white farmhouse, red dirt, spotted dogs, chippy rocking chairs, strong women in floral aprons. I saw Ma Brabham making soap in the big kettle, the Mississippi sun beating through the pines. I saw Mimi walking with my mother down the long dirt road to the mailbox (a queen bee was due to arrive in a box for the hive). I saw weathered hands pulling weeds and heard the snap of a hydrangea stem. 

Mimi had a way of seeing into my soul. I was an indecisive child, unwilling to make choices. Me, I was the holdup in the line at Morrison's Cafeteria, dithering over chocolate cake or coconut cream pie. All these decades later, I am still a waffler. I over-think. I will yank up a fragile idea before it has time to take root. Even now, I know that my old style of blogging (all over the place) is rubbing up against a new style, one that I cannot name. No wonder I can't commit. It's easier to ruminate.

Mimi knew this about me. 
"It's scary to change," she'd say. 
I didn't want to be afraid, and she knew that, too. 
"You can be fearful and still be brave," she said. "One doesn't exclude the other. You need both in this life."
She also reminded me that not making a decision is a decision. 
"Just figure out what you want," Mimi said. "Figure out what you don't want. Then decide. And that's when the magic happens."
Mimi's lessons are still with me, and that means she is with me, too. 
She was right there, cheering me on when I decided to tackle Wordpress. And she was right there when I signed up for a photography class. She was right there to help when Lightroom kicked me to the curb.

She is there when I sip Earl Grey or walk through a garden. She is in the kitchen when I bake. When I'm scared I remind myself to be brave. And no matter what, I am never alone.

Mimi's Apricot-Lemon Pound Cake
                                                                                          Serves 12

1 box cake mix (I used Duncan Hines Lemon Supreme )
1/2 cup white granulated sugar
3/4 cooking oil (Wesson or Crisco)
1 cup bottled apricot nectar
juice of 1/2 lemon
5 eggs

Grease a round tube (or Bundt) pan and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. 
In a large bowl (I used a mixer), blend the cake mix, oil, nectar, sugar, lemon juice, eggs, and oil. Pour into the cake pan.
Bake 1 hour. If the top cracks, your cake will be magnificent. Cool a little--not too long or
your cake might stick in the pan. Tap sides of pan with a wooden spoon. 
Invert cake and place
on a wire rack. (If your cake refuses to budge, place it--pan and all--in the freezer. Remove and it should pop out.) Place the rack on a shallow baking pan that's been lined with waxed paper. Using a wooden skewer, poke holes all over the top and sides of your cake.

1 bag powdered sugar
1/4 cup apricot nectar
lemon juice (start with 1/2 teaspoon and adjust to your liking)
Place ingredients in the bowl of a mixer and blend. When the icing thickens a bit,
spoon it over your cake. Spoon the "dregs" over your cake. Over and over. Use the skewer to poke more holes, if necessary. When the glaze hardens, serve the cake on your prettiest platter and garnish with old fashioned roses.


  1. Lovely post. You were so fortunate to have such a guiding light in your life. Sounds like your still draw on her love and her strength.

  2. I love everything about this post!

    Your Mimi was a smart woman and I'd love to remember those quotes.

    Yanking up a fragile idea before it takes root....we are soul sisters. :)

  3. I love it when you reminisce about your Mimi, Michael Lee. Oh, how she's had an influence on you for your whole life. Don't we all hope that someone remembers us like that? Since I'm a waffler, too, I loved knowing that not making a decision, is making a decision. You've done Mimi proud by sharing her lemon apricot cake, embellished like only YOU can do! Wish I could sit down and share a slice with you, with a cup of Earl Grey!

  4. From one ditherer to another, I understand. Southern Louisiana remodeling Grandma's old farm house. I've experienced the magic of making a decision, so why do I struggle? Will I paint our bedroom walls green or soft teal? But I have a lot of peach colored stuff so where will I use it if I go with teal? The needlepoint rug and original watercolors impact the decision - can't use watercolors in the bathroom and the needlepoint rug needs to be in a lower traffic area. Probably needs to be in the master bedroom. But do I REALLY want peach in there? And the dithering continues...

  5. Thank you for this post (and the entire series) Those of us that were lucky enough to have grandparents - and lucky me, great-grandmothers- around to guide us may be in the minority but I truly appreciate having those memories.

    In the words of the '80's band Rush: "If you choose not to decide
    You still have made a choice" 'Freewill' LOL!!

  6. While my mother and older sisters were great guides and mentors for me, I often wonder what it would've been like to have a strong grandmother's presence. Yours was definitely imparting her wisdom over the summers with you. It's really special getting to know you is a little like getting to know her. THanks for the cake recipe. It looks and sounds wonderful, just my kind of sweet.

  7. Your Mimi was a fount of wisdom. What rich memories. What joy!

  8. What a wonderful story. You're so blessed to have such memories of your Mimi.

  9. I always enjoy reading your stories about your mimi. I never knew my grandfathers, but was close to both of my grandmothers. I've very fond memories of them and the time spent together. One of my grandmothers lived with us, so I spent much time with her. She loved to garden, do handwork while she listened to the radio. She baked fresh bread every week. My other grandmother lived with another aunt in our same town, so we were close as well. It's such a gift when one can spend time with, be influenced by, and learn from a grandparent. Your mimi sounds very special. I plan to make her cake soon. ;-)

  10. This had made me realize that when my grandbabies get older, I will make a point to "talk" to them. Look them in the eyes and tell them stories about the days gone by.
    Try to teach them something simply by talking to them. I never had grandparents so I'm trying really hard to be a special someone to my grands.
    And Im going to make that cake just to honor your Mimi!!!

  11. This is so lovely, I often wonder how my grandchildren will remember me...

    1. Jenna, I have no doubt whatsoever--yes, they will! xxoo