Many things can trigger a memory of times past. A photograph that pops up on social media or you unearthed while cleaning out a drawer, a smell that reminds you of a person place or activity, or even a food you eat. Suddenly you are brought back to a different time in your life.
This happened to me recently. When I cooked baked beans.
I had such a wonderful childhood that provided so many great memories. Summers spent swimming, going to Vacation Bible School, spend the night parties with friends, camping trips and many family reunions.
I was blessed with a large extended family since my mother was one of 12 children. My father was from Johnstown Pennsylvania so, every summer we spent at least a week of our summer break traveling from Valdosta to Pennsylvania to visit my Grandparents and my dad’s northern relatives.
One particular year, we invited my Aunt and Uncle from my “mothers side” to travel with us to Pennsylvania. Back in the early ’60s there were no Wendy’s, McDonald’s or Taco Bell’s along the way so on this trip, like many others, my Mother fried chicken and made potato salad and baked beans the night before so that it could be carefully loaded early the next morning in our old Coleman green metal cooler.
The following July morning, we left Valdosta early, in our attempt to avoid the heat of the day. Packed like sardines in the old Opal Station Wagon that had no air conditioning, we knew we were in for a very long, hot and tiring ride made much worse by the cramped quarters of four adults and two children.
Noon finally came and everyone was ready to get out of the car and stretch their legs and eat some of Momma’s fried chicken. Young people today have probably never seen a roadside park, that consisted of a few old picnic tables and trash receptacles and if you were lucky, a few shade trees. These parks were placed sporadically along well-traveled highways and on this particular day, we were all so grateful when my Dad pulled off the highway.
This park had only two picnic tables and they were placed dangerously close to the highway, so immediately the adults began to warn my sister and me to stay on the opposite side of the picnic table and away from the highway. My mom passed out paper plates, and cups filled with sweet tea and everyone helped themselves to some potato salad, baked beans, and cold fried chicken. We began to enjoy having a little more wiggle room than the car had allowed and the occasional breeze that helped dry your sweat.
My Aunt picked up her piece of chicken to take a bite, leaving her lightweight paper place that now only held a dab of potato salad and her baked beans. At that moment, a semi truck rushed past blasting us with a burst of hot air which instantly flipped her plate into her chest. Her mouth gaped open in shock as baked beans now ran from her chest to her lap while the rest of us erupted in laughter.
Eventually, she saw the humor and for many years we would laugh easily at this memory. I had not thought of this for a long time, until Mothers Day 2019 as I stood in my kitchen making baked beans and potato salad. Instantly I was no longer a Mother of 3 and soon to be a Grandmother of 6. I was a curly-headed preschooler laughing at the memory of baked beans rolling down my Aunts shirt.