stolen kitchen heritage

When we lost my Mamaw, exactly ten years ago, I went first thing to her kitchen, pulled her skillet from the stove, wrapped it in a dish towel, and walked it straight to my borrowed car. I stole it.

I didn’t know how to drive a stick, but that’s what I did all the way from Northwest Arkansas to West Tennessee to be with her in her final days. I would crank up that poor thing and jerk-stall every 20 yards from here to there. My whole body ached from the drive. Then I sat with her for 2 weeks praying that she would go on to be with Jesus. I pushed the buttons I thought would send her farthest from hurt.

She morphined right into heaven, saw angels on going, waited until we were all there – one of those days I thought I might have seen the spirit veil flutter a bit. It almost became translucent.

Stolen, or meant for me, I took that skillet and imagined 2000 years from now, someone might find it at the bottom of a lake. They might take samples and find traces of lard and cornmeal. They’d find traces of her, traces of me.

Last night, Mamaw, I made some. I did your dance: sink, step, step, bowl, spoon, table, whip, step, step, skillet, pour, scrape, pour, oven. I learned it from you. I slam things like you. My hands are bony like you, strong.

I’ve been in your kitchen, early dark morning, red-eye gravy, you clanging out the eggs. I sat on the stool. I’ve been in your kitchen, brothers looking hornet-mad, stomping through in work boots. It’s not all love. A kitchen never is.

Mine is little, too, here. Here, too, I hum the hymns, and I ignore more than I listen or try to remember. It’s not my favorite place, but it’s where I have you, our skillet, and that’s where I keep home swirling. Thanks for all the years you cooked into that iron. I eat from you still.

About me


Cursed Be the Woman
March 06, 2013
The Chains of Worry: About a Skinny Girl Who Wrote an Eating Disorder Book
October 24, 2012
Made for the Party
September 19, 2012
The Feeding Tube
July 19, 2012
The Spirit is Willing
August 29, 2011
And Then We Drove to the Ocean
June 02, 2011
To One of My Homes
May 31, 2011
A Haines Home Companion: Looking Round, Feeling Light
April 08, 2011
A Haines Home Companion: my town, my bones, my bloom
March 11, 2011


Donna @ WayMoreHomemade
Reply October 21, 2010

I love to hear stories of kitchen heritage. I have a rich one of my own from my Nana. Beautiful, Amber.

Soutthern Gal
Reply October 21, 2010

Tears. What I miss most about my grandma's kitchen dance is standing next to her as she made biscuits. And those little knuckle prints on every single one. She used to make some just for me to take home and put in the freezer. When I wanted Grandma's biscuits they were right there waiting for me.

Leslie @ every good and perfect
Reply October 21, 2010

I really enjoyed reading this, Amber. Stories about grandmothers are some of my favorites. I miss mine, and their love-food too, terribly.

Reply October 21, 2010

It makes this season of life, this grandmotherly time, all the more precious. So touching Amber.

Reply October 21, 2010

I love reading about grandmothers and granddaughters. I didn't grow up with grandmothers. I didn't learn the dance. Thanks for sharing.

Reply October 21, 2010

no dance learned here either,
but my children have their nonna, I have nonna,

I live in our kitchen. We do.

It is in you... and you can keep feeding your soul with it, and your family and ... your posts about your garden and the simmering smells before you moved... you are this.

Reply October 21, 2010

Maybe it's because I miss my own grandma everyday (she's also been gone 10 years), but this really, really touched me. Thanks for sharing this part of yourself, Amber.

Ann Voskamp@Holy Experience
Reply October 21, 2010

And I eat from you now.
MawMaw feeds us all....
I taste the salt of tears and miss my Grandma too.

I miss you here.
And think -- what would Amber say. I try to remember a March afternoon and words over ice tea.
Pray for words.

Reply October 21, 2010

I am praying, my Ann. You are so loved. I'm afraid no one will be able to tell you that in the way that it's felt, but you are.


Reply October 21, 2010


I commented to Joanne (mylstones) that today I read blogs bottom up. Least favorite to most. That left just her, then you - and when I leave here - Ann Voskamp. I think it's the way I'll do it from now on, because you are the ones I am most indebted to. I want to write and touch the heart and nobody has touched mine as well, or as often, as you three have done.

When my mom left this earth she too was "morphined right into heaven" and she too waited until we were all there - she willed herself through one last Christmas - and I remember her last breath, which came just after my baby sister crawled right up on her chest, and whispered in her ear, "It's alright mommy, you can go now." Then she was gone ---------- from here.

I always folded towels in halves - and mom had a hissy every time - "NO it's like this, then this, then this, then this". I said it made no sense. She said they fit better. And to finish any and all argument added, "Because I'm your mother" - sometimes piling on the old standby - "I brought you into this world and I can take you right out again".

All 5 foot nothing of her.

The power of a mom. Be careful Amber - you may not know your own strength. I still fold my towels in three's instead of just halves. And every time I do it I smile - because it was her way. Just like your Grandma's skillet dance.

I always heart your words. I big frilly hearted these.

And when I begin blogging - in just a couple of weeks now - having learned so much from sitting at the feet of some truly magnificent women, I hope I can write just. half. as. good.

Ann Kroeker
Reply October 21, 2010

I miss her, too; you wrote this so powerfully, I am missing the Mamaw of yours that I've never met...yet feel that I have.


And of course my heart drifts to my grandma. I miss her...and her sugar cookies.

    Reply October 21, 2010

    I guess I have at least 15 years, LORD willin', to perfect my baking skills, so I can enter the scent memory as powerfully as all good grandmas do.

Reply October 21, 2010

That spirit veil fluttering ... mmmm ... I know this. I do.

Amber? Beautiful.

Reply October 22, 2010

at one point i had 4 grandmothers, all different in their love for me and dancing. i've tried to take the best moves from each and make my own groove.

this is hearty, like the cornbread, with some sweet. did mamaw use sugar and molasses?

Reply October 22, 2010

I miss Mamaw. Amber, you ARE like her in the best of ways. I think Daddy agrees. Love you.

Reply October 22, 2010

My Grandma had a little cast iron frying pan that I can still taste the crispy bacon from ... I wish I'd stolen it when she passed! I think about it every time I cook bacon. Remembering is beautiful. Thank you!

Reply October 22, 2010

Your words are beautiful. Thanks for sharing your memories.

Kelly Langner Sauer
Reply October 23, 2010

good night. I love your writing! SOOOOO glad you're back!

To Think Is To Create
Reply October 25, 2010

If I leave now, what time will I be there?


Reply October 29, 2010


Megan Willome
Reply November 4, 2010

This is beautiful! I stole my mom's purse and filled it with her tea, hours before she died, and I'm so glad I did.

L.L. Barkat
Reply November 4, 2010

Very sweet. :)

I think of my Grandma every time I cut pastry with her red-handled pastry cutter, or grate cheese with her ancient grater (which is still perfectly functional). The thing I miss is her chair. I was convinced to dispose of it, and I realized the other night that I just shouldn't have let it go. So I did penance with a poem.

Congratulations, btw, for being highlighted over at :)

David Rupert
Reply November 8, 2010

I hope you were surprised at my mention over at The High Calling, "Around the Network" monthly best of posts.

I really like this post and all of your work. Keep writing!

David Rupert, Editor, High Calling Newsletter

    Reply November 8, 2010

    Thank you, David. I was surprised. What an honor.

Reply September 28, 2012

My Dear Amber, I dearly miss my Granny. She died many years ago yet left us all much to ponder. I wish for her black iron skillet or that wonderful wooden bowl of flower where she made the biscuits--those that melted in your mouth. I am blessed to enjoy grandgirls and hope one will care enough to steal my black skillet. Your words are so real. Thank you.

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