This is how our neighbor Julia began her sentences when she was making a point. She was usually pointing a finger at me too.
When we first bought our home we had a lot of work to do, we installed central air, pulled up carpeting, refinished the hardwoods and seemed to have a paintrush in my hand Friday-Sunday. We stayed in our rental in Austin for a month, and drove out here every night after work and on the weekends to work. I would leave work, go by and grab Roscoe and head out to the “new house”in Elgin. Our meals were mostly of the drive-thru variety.
One Sunday morning during that month Julia invited us to come by for lunch at noon. We cleaned ourselves up and head on over at noon. She had been cooking all morning for us. She’d made fried chicken, mashed potatoes, corn pudding, green beans, rolls, and chocolate pie. We were blown away at such hospitality and knew we’d made the right move to this small town. We love telling that story to people who wonder why the hell we moved from Austin to a small town who’s claim to fame is sausage and bricks.
While we were getting excited for our first Christmas in our new home, I’d noticed she had all the candied fruits and nuts to make fruit cake, but she’d recently taken a fall and said she wasn’t up to the task that year. I’d never made one so volunteered to help her. Once the fruit cake was baked, she covered it with cheesecloth and pulled a plastic wrapped bottle of Mogen David from her deep freeze, unscrewed the cap and drizzled it over the top. Julia was a good Baptist woman so I assume this bottle had been in her home since I graduated high school in 1983.
The next morning, I walked next door to give her the molasses I’d picked up for her at HEB, so she can make her rolls. Mind you she was moving in a week and was hell bent on baking rolls for her family’s holiday meals. She’d tried to substitute with the sorghum she had, but she said they tasted nasty. She told me that she started baking her rolls every October, and just put them up in the freezer until they came by to fetch her to spend the holidays with them. She was really sad that she wouldn’t be able to do this anymore.
Julia gave us the buffet that is now the work table in my print studio. She gave me her yarn tote too, though it fell apart years ago. She crocheted, she said it was her constant companion and reached for it beside her chair every night when she was watching TV, much the way I do with my knitting.
In September of 2007 Julia was beginning to pack up her to move into assisted living close to her son and his family. She was a few months shy of her 90th birthday and had been living alone since her husband Roscoe died in 1993. She was a pistol, and lived in that house since before ours was moved from San Marcos and plunked down next hers in 1950.
As we were getting closer to actually inhabiting each room of our home, and hanging artwork and family photos, Julia was next door taking hers down.
We miss her being next door, but luckily the new owners are great neighbors and renovating the old house to reveal its original beauty, they love it as much as Julia did.
I only wish I’d remembered to ask her for the recipe for those rolls…