As the official first day of fall blows in with cooler temperatures and colorful leaves, there is always a little more pep in my step. Without question, I love the changing of the leaves but, more than that, my memories gravitate to my mother.
She loved fall and it was her wish for our entire family to take an annual trip to the mountains. We went almost every one of the 10 years she lived after her tragic car accident.
At that time, our family was spread over several cities with various jobs, but once Mother set the date for our fall pilgrimage, all of our schedules were immediately synchronized.
It was a special time for the gathering of three generations of family to enjoy each other’s company and the exquisite and colorful beauty autumn freely gives.
Suitcases were carefully packed with warmer clothing and almost everything else -- except the kitchen sink. Although the kitchen played a very important role in our trips, we opted to leave it behind.
Goodies always were prepared for our fall road trip. One never knows when you may need a morsel. God forbid if you were to have something happen and be stranded on the side of a mountain without some sort of nourishment.
We always opted for nourishment of the sweeter kind in the form of brownies, a pound cake or, one of my favorites, Ranger Cookies. Although I’m quite sure Mother made Ranger Cookies at times other than just the fall months, in my mind, that’s the only time I remember her baking them.
I can see them now, packed carefully and tightly into a large Tupperware container. They were never far from reach and, let’s just say, that famous Tupperware seal was released more than a few times.
I don’t know which was more fragrant: The heavenly aroma that always escaped into the car when the top of the Tupperware container was opened, leaving lingering hints of butter and toasted coconut, or the wonderful smell of roasting pecans that enveloped the kitchen as the cookies slowly baked. Both memories leave my mouth watering.
I can see Mother right now mixing up a batch of these delicious cookies. Standing in her kitchen in front of the largest bowl she owned, she carefully measured and added butter, brown sugar, oatmeal, coconut, pecans, eggs and flour. It is a thick cookie mixture and required sheer strength and the help of a wooden spoon to thoroughly incorporate all the tasty components.
It was a workout for Mother on any day, but especially in her last years when her health was failing. Her aches and pains never stopped her from whipping up some of these cookies a day or so before our trip.
She held the wooden spoon with a death grip and slowly stirred the ingredients together as if she was mixing cement. Round and round she went many times until she felt satisfied with her batter.
Then the real work began. The recipe yields a lot of cookies and, as we all know, each one has to be rolled into a perfect walnut size ball and placed on a cookie sheet. Our last few trips I volunteered to help her with the cookie making process. Some of my fondest memories are of Mother and I working together in her kitchen.
Mother’s failing health finally won the battle and our fall trips to the mountain faded away. Ironically, Mother died during the fall, in early November. I haven’t taken many trips to the mountains since, but I have memories as tall as mountains of the ones we took all those years ago.
This Wednesday brings with it yet another fall season. The air will be as crisp as autumn apples. The leaves will be as colorful as pumpkins and gourds. Hay bales will pop up here and there and crunchy brown corn stalks will stand tall behind them.
In celebration of fall’s arrival, I’ll probably whip up a batch of Ranger Cookies. After all, that’s what Mother would have done!
MORE WITH MARK
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