Daddy grew sugar cane and had a mill to get the juice out of it; he’d cook it in a big kettle and make syrup. He would strain the syrup and put it in cans and bottles and sell it for cash. As the syrup cooked, it would have thick candy-like stuff around the top edge where the juice touched the kettle. We would get us a cane peeling that was tough, and we’d scoop up the sugar crust with our cane peeling and have a treat.
As we were kids Mama tried to do things at night for us to enjoy. She would cook the syrup Daddy made and make it into candy. She’d put it in a greased platter and when it cooled enough to handle she would pull it until it got brittle and made pores and she’d break it in pieces which we ate and loved. Done this way it was not red like the syrup anymore but was a taffy tan color, and we loved that taffy. She also cooked white sugar to the candy stage and pulled it so we had two kinds of candy to enjoy: white and tan.
Another thing we’d do at times was to put syrup in a bowl and add water and we had something special as a drink in all our odd doing of things. It was called sweetened water but we liked it.
One neighbor hauled his cane to our place and had a couple of steers that pulled the big wagon – he’d talk to them and say, “Ge-e-e Buck – woa-ee Buck,” and whip them a little.
Those are things I remember so well.
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I remember breakfasts with Daddy, whether that meant buying a dozen Dunkin’ Donuts or making homemade chocolate chip pancakes. I remember Christmas Eves full of food and family, mingling with the random hordes at a cousin’s house, or adopting misplaced and lonely friends into our home for Thanksgiving. I remember building bonfires outside, knowing that a few minor burns or smoke in the eyes were worth the delights of crowning each other the Smoke King and Queen and relishing the accomplishment of a meal cooked outdoors and without Mommy’s help.
I remember going to a “cane-grinding” with Big Mommy. There wasn’t any Buck to call “Ge-e-e!” or flash a whip; just a tractor going ‘round and ‘round and ‘round, pressing the juice out of the cane. I remember seeing the stalks come out the other side, completely flat, like a frayed ribbon. I remember chewing on the stalks, sucking the juice out from those fibers. I remember the man stirring the kettle before handing me a biscuit; he told me to poke my finger into it and make a hole, and then carefully ladled hot syrup into the hole. I was told to watch out and let it cool; oh what a treat! I remember Big Mommy buttering a platter, pouring syrup on it, and making taffy candy for us, just like her mother made for her. These things are a legacy from Big Mommy. There are precious memories that were created for her, and because of that, she was able to pass them down to us.
What memories our parents and grandparents have given us! What gifts and treasures do we not even recognize? Oh, may we always remember and be able to share those memories with the people around us.
We have to be careful though, that memories are not a cause for further bitterness. Recently, I talked to a friend about an issue I thought was behind me, but just discussing it with her brought out all those ugly feelings all over again. Ugly, ugly, ugly. I felt disgusting afterwards. And I hadn’t done a thing in the world except remind myself of the old hurts. Reminders of good things are, well, good things. Reminders of what made us bitter will only continue to do so.
Why do the bad things linger in our minds? Why is it so easy to remember how people hurt us, and not how they blessed us? What sweet memories lie hidden back there?
I think that’s what God meant when He said that our transgressions would be cast into the sea, as far as east is from west. They have to be far away, or our memories will retrieve every last little sin. Forgiveness isn’t just about telling someone, “It’s okay,” but it’s about being okay inside. It’s about forgetting. Forgetting what pain there was and just remembering the joy. Loving the person for who God intended them to be, and not for how they messed up. Loving yourself the same way. We definitely mess up sometimes, but God turns everything for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. Everything. So our lives truly are good.