My mother had given me my sense of humor, my love for crafts, my tenderness for children, and my (how should I put this?) full figure. Having lost her at such a young age, however, I felt like my life was a big unfinished jigsaw puzzle, and I had lost the box lid with the picture on top. I kept rummaging through the pieces trying to make sense of who I thought I should be. Besides Grandma, I looked for the answers among a few other important women who influenced my life.
My pastor’s wife, Mrs. Chism was a great comfort to me. The parsonage, which was right next to the church, might as well have had a revolving door. Kids were always welcome there, and more importantly, Mrs. Chism never seemed to be bugged by them. I would sometimes stop by after school just to visit, and she would involve me in whatever she was doing. If she was peeling potatoes, I was peeling potatoes. If she was organizing her recipes, I watched with the interest of an action adventure movie. How exciting it was for me to watch a real live homemaker at work! How mysterious were the ways of a woman whose house was welcoming, peaceful and orderly! I made up my mind that, when I grew up, I was going to be just like her.
Another woman of influence was my 4-H cooking teacher, Mrs. Parks. On her refrigerator she posted a weekly menu complete with reference of cookbook titles and page numbers for each dish. Her daughter, Connie, was one of my best friends, so I spent a lot of time at their house. Mrs. Parks lacked Mrs. Chism’s warmth, but her house was immaculate. Like one who works at figuring out a magician’s slight of hand, I wanted to unlock the secret of her organizational prowess and tried to watch carefully how she moved through her space with such diligence and efficiency. When I got to be a mom, I was going to be like her, too. I mentally scrounged through the loose puzzle pieces of my life looking for a match.