Written by Debbie Sloan
Edited by Mandi Pitt-Reed
Spring is a time of renewal here in the Memphis area. The first sign of spring is spring flowers. Two of my favorites are daffodils and tulips, with irises coming in third. I think daffodils are my favorite spring flowers because they remind me of my introduction to poetry. We had a set of books that were wonderful because they had full color drawings in them. There were about ten-twelve books and each one covered a different topic. One covered art, another poetry, another space, another plants, and so on. I often looked at them while Mom was busy in the kitchen. She not only cooked in the kitchen, but also sewed on the kitchen table, she ironed in the kitchen, and “put up” vegetables and fruit in the freezer in, what seemed at the time a gigantic workspace. While she worked, she would often hum or recite William Wadsworth’s famous poem, “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud.” She knew all of the stanzas by heart and recited it in a lilting, almost sad voice, but if you looked at her while she was reciting it, she was smiling—even though she sounded a bit sad. She would begin, “I wandered lonely as a cloud/That floats on high o'er vales and hills,/When all at once I saw a crowd,/A host, of golden daffodils; /Beside the lake, beneath the trees,/Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.” One day while she was reciting this lovely poem to herself, I was looking through those books when, lo and behold, there was the poem along with a beautiful drawing of “a host of daffodils.” I squealed in delight and mom said, “Yes, I love the picture too.” Right then and there I began to love poetry. I loved those books. They opened a whole new world for me. Here is a link to the entire poem: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poems/detail/45521
While spring is a time of renewal and re-birth, it is also a time of endings. The cycle of life has endings just as it has beginnings. I got news a few weeks ago that a dear friend of the family passed away. I am not sure why it was shocking but death always is – even when we expect it. Glen was my next-door neighbor growing up but left home at seventeen or so to join the Army. He was much older than me so I don’t recall much of his time living next door but I do recall how excited everyone got to learn he was coming home for a visit. He was quite tall, thin, and very distinguished in his military uniform and simply a delight to be around. He was a storyteller of the highest caliber. He could turn any event happy or sad into a fun, happy time. I recall on one visit he was recently back from a tour in Vietnam. Any culture different from mine has always been fascinating to me. He would talk about being in Vietnam and every aspect of the place and the story would come alive. I could envision everything as though I was there. On one particular evening, we were talking about a market area or something very much like a market area that he and his military buddies were visiting on a night out from the base. He said that on these trips out, they often bought candles to have on hand at the base. He said that children were in the marketplace selling them regularly but one had to be careful to light the candle while the child was still holding it in order to make sure it didn’t explode later. He said that if you reached for your lighter and the child ran off, you knew it wasn’t a good candle. As he said it he was smiling, simply telling of a night on the town, so-to-speak, in which candle purchasing was a small part of the event. The enormity of what he said didn’t hit me until much later when I was more grown up.
A more recent visit back home prompted a trip to Beale Street. Glen said to me during our club-hopping adventure that people always want to see the main tourist attractions no matter where they are visiting. He was no exception. Beale Street had become a tourist destination while he was away. We had a great time making up stories about the various people in the clubs—you know, where they lived, their occupations, what they might be doing in Memphis, etc., just fun stuff. He was living in California at the time and I noticed that as we drove to Beale Street, he was taken with how green everything here was at the time. Finally, I asked what the fascination with our large beautiful trees was and he said he had been gone so long from here that he had forgotten how beautiful our trees are and that the main green areas in Monterey were only the areas that produce was grown because they watered those areas heavily. I saw this for myself when we visited him and his family a few years later. Glen was jovial and easily accommodated when he visited. He required mainly two foods, Memphis bar-b-que and dessert. The type of dessert didn’t matter because he liked them all. The recipe today is peanut butter squares. I have made this recipe hundreds of times, but I am not sure I ever actually made it when Glen was home. However, I am making it now in his honor. I think he would love it! It is another universal pleaser! Here’s the recipe:
Peanut Butter Squares
Butter and flour a 9 x 13 inch baking dish and pre-heat the oven to 325o F.
2-1/2 C. All Purpose Flour
1-1/4 C. Brown Sugar
¾ C. Granulated (White) Sugar
2 Large Eggs
1 C. Peanut Butter
1 C. Vegetable Oil
½ tsp. salt
A smidge of vanilla can be added although I didn’t add it this time.
Steps 1 & 2
Steps 3 & 4
Steps 5 & 6
Bake the squares about 25 - 35 minutes. My oven isn't that great so when they look like the above photo on the right they are done!
Don’t forget our all important safety rule: Always use potholders when retrieving items from the oven!
Also, if you don’t let the squares cool completely ---and it is difficult to wait on this step –they will crumble and not be pretty when you cut them—but they will still taste great!
Here are the beauty shots!
We miss you Glen!