Friday, October 16, 2009

'Honey Bear Brownies' and My Aunt Brenda

(My Aunt Brenda and Uncle Jack with their kids, Randy and Renee. This is an OLD photo - I think it was taken in 1987!)

I love my Aunt Brenda. My mom’s only sister, Brenda was a good bit younger than my mom. She used to babysit for me when I was a little girl. I think she told me I was maybe 4 or 5 at the time. She has told me on different occasions about babysitting for me and telling me it was time to go home from wherever she had taken me (I think she said it was the park), and I’d say, “Ok, Mommy. I mean - Brenda!” She just smiles when she tells me that story, like it’s a sweet memory for her.

And I have so many sweet memories of Brenda! She lives in Virginia, where I (mostly) grew up. I saw her recently, and although I had not seen her for four years (is that even possible?), it was like I had just seen her the previous day. Do you have family and friends like that? No matter how long it’s been since you’ve spoken or seen each other, you truly pick up like you’ve never been apart? It’s always like that with Brenda! We just connect instantly and I love that!

Brenda is so much like my own sweet mother that, in some ways, being with her is like being with my mom. She sounds like my mom (especially on the phone), laughs like my mom and at the same kind of things my mom laughed at... I love that because to me it’s like being given a very special gift. I lost my mother over 16 years ago. It seems like an eternity when I look at the years. Yet, I still feel so close to her, like she’s always with me, experiencing with me what I experience in many ways. So, being with Brenda is an extra special treat; in so many ways it’s like going home.

I was thinking a lot about Brenda yesterday, when I made “Honey Bear Brownies” for Matthew, who came home from college for the weekend. Brenda shared this recipe with me probably 30 years ago. I hadn’t made these brownies for years, yet they hold special memories in my family. You see, it was with these brownies that I snagged my husband, Ken! And while that is another story entirely, suffice it to say that my Aunt Brenda has supplied me with many of the incredible recipes that have become family and friend-favorites. Brenda is a wonderful cook, so any recipe she recommends automatically makes it to the “Save!” file! Even when I go through and discard recipes from my overflowing collections, I never throw away any Brenda shared with me! Some of them I’ve never even tried – well, not yet – but there is no way I could part with them!

I write on this blog about hospitality and my memories of times past. My memories of being at Brenda’s house are very special. Whenever she has known we were going to visit, she made wonderful, home-cooked meals that could stand up against any TV chef! I remember delicious meals with yummy casseroles and fresh garden produce. Brenda cans and freezes hundreds of containers of green beans and other items she and her husband, Jack, grow in their garden every year.

And her desserts?! Wow! Brenda always has a terrific dessert – usually something I’ve never tried. What’s so amazing is that she has no qualms about making a brand new dessert for company. You know, the pros tell you that’s a ‘no-no’. I love it that Brenda tosses caution to the wind and tries something new for guests! No guts, no glory! Well, she always gets lots of praise, because her meals are always worth talking about – and obviously worth writing about, too!

I love you, Brenda! And I miss you. I wish you lived closer and that I could see you more often!

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