The banana pudding on the window sill

Published 8:33 pm Wednesday, May 17, 2017

By Lynn Walker Gendusa
Contributing Columnist

The car pulled onto the dirt and pebble drive, past Granddaddy’s lumber mill and slowly wrapped around the little fishing pond.   My mother put on the brakes, stopping just shy of my grandparent’s carport. 

The carport was never used for cars, it was used to house the gliders, chairs, and plants that were accompanied by a big-braided rug used for covering the concrete.  This outside haven of mental warmth was used for watermelon feasts and playing board games in the fresh air, as well as a welcome station for all guests.

My summer vacations always began with a two-week stay at my Grandpa’s house on the Cumberland Plateau in Tennessee.  (Grandpa is my grandmother.  A name coined by my brother who was the first grandchild.)

Those days that I stayed with my grandparents was the highlight of every summer.  And, every June upon my arrival, sitting on the window sill was my favorite dish:  a cooling banana pudding.   

Homemade lard biscuits with homemade grape jelly, fresh cured pork tenderloins, fried chicken, pot roast and garden vegetables were just some of the treats that adorned my plate every day.  When the cousins came to visit and play, Grandpa had each grandchild’s favorite dessert prepared  and favorite drink in the refrigerator. 

“Why do you cook as much as you do, Grandpa?”, I often asked.

“Well, honey, that’s one way I show love,” she said as she wiped her floured hands on her apron.

Grandpa rose on Sunday’s at 4 am. She started to cook the roast and the fried chicken, plus prepare the side dishes before we all left for church.

“Why do you have to get up so early?”, I often questioned.

“Well, honey, it’s because I need to get to church to give love to God.”, she always answered, untying her apron.

For all of us who were blessed to call her our grandmother or great-grandmother, there is not one that doubted that she loved us or God, ever.

Little Mikey is turning 70 this month.  Mikey and his wife are our friends down the street.   We gathered, along with three other couples, for a little birthday celebration just north of Atlanta in the mountains.

I asked his wife, Ricki, what kind of cake Mikey would like for his birthday so that I could bake it.

“He likes pies. But don’t go to the trouble.  No one is eating sweets these days!”, Ricki responded.

“What kind of pie does he like?”, I asked ignoring the statement about eating sweets.

“Chocolate and key lime.”, she finally said, knowing I was oblivious to her objections.

Everyone that knows me knows you will not stop me from making a dessert.  I put on my apron, got my flour out and generally made a mess, just like my Grandpa.  While I stood in my kitchen stirring the chocolate and grating lime zest, I felt my grandmother’s spirit, as I always do, while making something special.

All the friends that accompanied us, including my own husband, thought me foolish for making the loved. 

They all thought they would not be eaten.

“No one is eating sweets these days,” they declared.    I chose to ignore their foolishness.

I put three candles in each pie and handed them to Mikey as the group sang the birthday song.  His eyes lit up when I told him one was Key Lime topped with peaked meringue and the other was Chocolate Cream, with the same fluffy topping.

It was funny how all those folks who don’t eat sweets anymore were fighting over the last pieces.  Not a crumb was left in either pie plate. 

Mikey called me a few days later. 

“Lynn, those pies were fantastic!  I can’t tell you how much I appreciated the trouble and the time you took to make my birthday very special.”

My Grandpa taught me a valuable lesson all those years ago.  When you care for someone, you just must show that you do.  It is not just in the words, it is in the trouble.  It is not only in making pies, but in going the extra mile to make someone feel special and loved. 

My granddaughter comes to visit me every summer.  I always have her favorite foods in the house.  She is now almost 12, and has become a fantastic little baker.  She loves making special treats for her family and friends while wiping her floured hands on her handmade apron. 

One day, when she was very young, I had her favorite food on the counter when she arrived for her summer visit.

“Grandma, why do you like to cook so much?”, she questioned.

“Well, it’s my way to show how much I love you,” I replied, as she stared at the banana pudding waiting for her.

Grandpa’s precious love lives on.