As some of you know, I just spent the last two weeks in Phoenix. It was a hard time for the most part, but there were some moments of fun, like the hour and a half I spent in my uncle’s company, walking up and down the aisles at a classic and antique car rally. Or making dinner for my parents, who really enjoyed the home-cooked meals. But the best thing that happened was just a little one, yet it’s the one that still makes me smile when I think about it. Here’s the story…
I lived in Phoenix for a couple years when I was a young woman. My then husband and I were expecting my oldest daughter, and my grandmother kindly opened her house up to us until we could get a place of our own. Now Gram and I have always had a really close relationship, even when we lived half a country apart from each other. I called her or she called me at least once a week. We’d catch up on whatever had happened that week, exchange news about family members, and usually, we’d share a recipe or two.
I have to tell you here that Gram was Italian and so was probably one of the best cooks I will ever know. Her food was the center of many a family gathering. She taught me how to make many of her favorite dishes in those months I lived with her. Because I wanted to preserve some of those recipes, I bought a 59¢ plastic recipe box and a package of alphabet dividers. The box was supposed to look like wood with carved flowers and leaves on its sides. I tucked my index cards into it with each new recipe I mastered, proud of the skills I had learned.
And then the unthinkable happened. When I moved, two boxes went missing and one of them had kitchen stuff in it. I searched for those recipes through each box I unpacked, losing all hope when I finally emptied the last cardboard carton. I was angry, sad and philosophical in turn, and then life intruded as it usually does and I forgot about that little carved container in the rush of raising a family.
Unbeknownst to me, the recipe box remained at my grandmother’s house for years until she died. Why she never said anything about it, I will never know. And why I never found it after her funeral when we all went back to her house and each of us took a few of her things to remember her by, I don’t know either. I never saw the box then. Never even remembered that I had once started a recipe file. Until last week.
We happened to be at my uncle’s house one afternoon for some reason. My mother and father, aunt and uncle and I were sitting around the kitchen table. My uncle and aunt were telling a story of having to replace their built-in microwave and how when they pulled it out, they found this recipe box in the cabinet above. When she showed me the box, I did a double take and said, “I used to have a recipe box just like that.” Yep, you guessed it. As I started looking through the recipes it contained, I realized the handwriting on those cards was mine. My aunt and uncle had found the box at my grandmother’s when they closed up the house, and for some reason, they had kept it.
So not only did I at long last find my recipe box, I discovered that, better still, my grandmother had added to its contents, tucking handwritten recipes and notes into it for all the years she’d had it. The top is no longer attached to the base, so I have to hold it closed with a rubber band now. But that box has pride of place on my worktop. Every day I look at the legacy my grandmother left and marvel that the small treasure chest made its way back to me after all this time.