Cinnamon Rolls

A member of my poetry group wrote to see whether any of us had a recipe for cinnamon rolls that is not from a cookbook.  I searched my closet of cookbooks and found my mother’s handwritten recipe for “Sweet Roll Dough (Masa Yeast).”

The notebook she’d written her recipes in is from the 1930’s when she taught grade school in Nebraska.  She taught on an Indian reservation.  Growing up, when I was naughty, she’d say, “You behave or I’ll send you back to the Indians,” so I always thought I came from the Indian reservation.  Not true, of course.  But recently, discussing mothers with a friend who grew up in New Orleans, I learned her mother told her she’d put a spell on her if she didn’t behave.  Regional discipline! 

Here are the titles of some of the recipes in the school notebook: 

Sour Cream Cake – the directions are simple.  After mixing dry ingredients and sour cream and vanilla, “Add two eggs last.  First beat whites stiff and then yolks.  Put 2 together and beat.  Fold in mixture.”  There’s nothing further about what to do with the batter or how to bake it.

Raisin Filled Cookies – this one lists dry ingredients then the ingredients for the filling and this direction:  “Boil until thick.”  That’s it.

Apple Cake:  “Bake about 3/4 hour in not too quick an oven.”

Baked Liver – oh, my.

There are recipes for Chocolate Cake from Aunt Sophia and Nut Loaf Cake from Aunt Lisetta (my mother’s aunts); and a Mahogany Cake recipe from Grandma Brune and one for Cherry Cake from Mom…those must be my greatgrandmother and my grandmother, respectively.  Huh. 

I think now, but I do not know for sure, that my mother taught on a reservation because she could not get a job anywhere else.  As a young woman – 19…again, not sure…she was in a car that slid on ice and – no seat belts – flew through the windshield and back.  Her face was badly scarred.  No one expected her to marry after that and she did not marry until she was 29.  I do not know what my father thought about the scar.  He never mentioned it.  It shaped her life, of course, in ways I do not even know or can begin to understand.  She died 24 years ago, so I can only speculate. 

May Baskets

In April, the southern sun still flooded

the bedroom where mother sat and sewed

May baskets, curls of pastel colored

crepe paper covered the floor, and tenfold

baskets emerged after an hour or two,

a pretty contrast to Dakota springs

where flowers hold off at least until June.

May baskets ready for the doorbell’s ring.

She did this in spite of the fact that she

did not actually like the neighbors.

Nor did they like her, it seemed to me.

So why gifts instead of giving them what for?

Possibly she did it to apologize

for the scar on her face that scared little ones.

She wanted to let them know that, otherwise ,

her heart beat like theirs, and they need not run.


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