Thoughts on life from Pat Oaks
When we were young, my Mother would stand at her old Hoosier Cabinet on Sunday night and put peanut butter onto vanilla wafers for us to eat before we went to youth group. I can still see her standing there.
Every year when I was growing up, my Mother made Christmas Pudding at Christmas. Since Tommy and I got married (55 years ago Dec. 22) I have made that same pudding every year....at Christmas.
One year in July, Tommy decided he wanted Christmas pudding. I said NO..Christmas Pudding is only for Christmas! It isn't good at any other time of year.
He insisted though, so I finally gave in. I was right. It just wasn't the same. So, other than that one July, I have only made it at Christmas.
As I was making it this past week, I told the guys that when Mother made it, I always asked her to save me a few of the vanilla wafers with which she made the crust.
It's funny how something like a vanilla wafer can bring back all kinds of memories! Buy a box today, and make a Christmas pudding! Today is Christmas after all! Remember to save a few out of the box to munch on! MERRY CHRISTMAS!
Recipe for Coconut Christmas Pudding:
1 Tablespoon gelatin
4 Tablespoons cold water
1 and a half Tablespoons corn starch
1 half teaspoon salt
2 cups milk
1 half cup sugar
4 egg yolks
1 half pint whipping cream
bag of unsweetened coconut
box of vanilla wafers;
Soak gelatin in cold water. Set aside. Scald milk. combine sugar, cornstarch and salt. Beat egg yolks and add to sugar mixture. Then add milk slowly to egg mixture, stirring well after each addition. (If you do it too fast the milk will cook the eggs!)
Cook this mixture until it thickens. Add gelatin as you take it from the stove.. Mix well and let cool.
Beat 4 egg whites with half cup of sugar and and 1 fourth teaspoon cream of tarter. Fold this mixture into cooled pudding mixture. Add 1 half teaspoon vanilla. Pour this mixture onto vanilla wafers, crushed and in the bottom of long baking dish.
Then, whip the whipping cream until thickened, and pour over pudding. Last add the coconut, colored green. (just drop drops of green food coloring onto coconut and stir until it is the shade you want.) There will be four layers in all.
When Tommy and I got married, we had very little as far as money goes, but it never bothered us. We just adjusted. Because money was scarce I made most of our clothes. I made all of my dresses (yes I wore those things back in the day!) I also made clothes for Tommy and the boys. I could get a remnant off the remnant table at the material store for 50 cents and make one of the boys a pair of pajamas. I even made a suit for Tommy once and I made him several ties.
My sisters always wanted me to make clothes for them as well, so I did. One time my sister Millie, wanted me to make her a winter coat! It wasn't easy, but it turned out beautifully!
Not too long after I made that coat, Millie went to be with the Lord. Mother said I should keep the coat, so I did. The first time I put it on, I put my hand down inside the pocket and found one of those tiny little rubber bands that people use on their teeth when they have braces. Not too long before Millie died, she had had braces put on her teeth. She had always wanted them and was finally able to get them!
As I stood there looking at that tiny little rubber band, a great sadness came over me. Not only for me, but for all of the people that my sister's death touched including her new babies, Tony and Anlyn. (They were 4 and 9 months when Millie died.)
Even something as small as a rubber band...and not even a large rubber band...can bring back memories. I never wore that coat again. I gave it away.
Yesterday, John boy walked through where I was sitting and said, "Mom, have you seen my belt?" I said no. Then I said, "have you looked on the bed in the first bedroom?" A few minutes later he called..."found it!" Then, I said, "you see John thomas...even when I don't know, I know." Then John boy said..."one should always trust their Mom's intuition!"
We do a lot of work with the Knoxville Dream Center. They called us the other day and asked if we would like to go into some of the schools here in Knox County and read The Polar Express to the kids. Of course we would!
So, this past week, that is exactly what we have been doing. We will do it next week as well. We take the Book Mobile with us, and the inside is decorated like the inside of a train car. We have little red chairs lined up for the kids to sit in. All of us are dressed very "Christmasy" and we also have a conductor and two engineers to power the train!
After the kids are seated, we pass out hot chocolate with marshmallows. Then, after closing the door and the conductor yelling "All Aboard", we are off! We read a shortened version of The Polar Express while showing pictures from the book. When we are finished, the kids file out, get a candy cane and a bell, as we all wave good bye to them. Another successful run to the North Pole!
One little boy told his teacher yesterday that this was "the best day of my life!" That may be true, but for me it was just as true. We went to the school where I did my first two years of teaching, so I was a tad teary eyed as the first graders filed onto the "train car." My favorite class was First Grade when I taught at this school. I was the music teacher so I taught all eight grades. (No junior high back then.)
Last night, Tommy, John boy and I decided to watch The Polar Express. We did it complete with our p.j's., (the kids and teachers wore their p.j's. to the reading) hot chocolate , (the real thing..none of this package stuff!) and each of us had our own bell to ring at appropriate times.
Sound crazy for people who are all over the age of 50? I don't think so. Especially to those of us who truly believe.
Have you ever wondered why some of the bizarre things happen in your life? I have a story in my new book (Love of the Little) about a "born again" dog and cockatoo. This should have been beside that story in my book! I just thought of it today and decided I should write about it. We went out to Watt Road to meet Eddie, Babe and Dalton and give them some CD's of Babe playing the piano and Dalton singing. You really need to get that CD. You won't believe Dalton! It may be my favorite recording of Victory in Jesus!
BUT...I am taking you off the path. Back to the woman, the parrot and the little girl. I thought about that story as we were driving back from Watt Road..WAY out west (West Knoxville) as we are so fond of saying. When we reached a certain stretch in the road, I remembered coming down that stretch one night late on the way back from Georgia. It was probably about 10 o'clock at night. All of a sudden we saw someone walking in front of us...on the interstate, no less!
As we got closer we saw that it was a woman with a parrot sitting on her shoulder, holding the hand of a little girl who looked to be about 3 years old! This stretch of road has a lot of huge 18 wheelers barreling down at all hours, but they are most dangerous at 10 o'clock at night. I told Tommy to pull over. Our car was already full, so I moved to the back and sat on the edge of the seat in back. We stopped and asked the woman where she was going. She replied that she was headed for Knoxville and hoped that her daughter would pick her up there. Her daughter lived in Lexington. Her car had broken down a few exits back. She said she was running from an abusive husband and that the little girl was her granddaughter.
We drove on into Knoxville and took her to a motel that is just off the Lexington exit. We got her a room (yes, they took parrots!) and against what I really wanted to do...we left. The reason I did not want to leave was that this 3 year old girl, who had just met us, cried to go with us! What in the world does a person do in a situation like that?
We went by the next morning to check on her and she was gone.
One thing I remember about that night is the smell of that woman's breath wafting over the seat into my face...(alcohol...a lot of it!) and the smell of that parrot! I also wondered how in the world that thing stayed on her shoulder as she walked down the inter state!
Some things you can't make up!
When I was growing up in Fountain City, my family became charter members of a new congregation in town...The Christian Church of Fountain City. For awhile we met in an old restaurant building on Broadway. The building is still there. In fact, that is the building where I walked forward one Sunday to declare that I wanted Jesus to be my Lord and Savior and I have never regretted it.
My Mother's best friend was Evelyn Knable. She was also the pianist for the church and she was a great one! I never heard my Mother call Mrs. Knable, Evelyn. I also never heard Mrs. Knable call my Mother Lila. It was always, Mrs. Knable and Mrs. Combs. Things were different back then. I imagine that when they talked privately they might have used each others first names, but I don't know for sure.
For awhile Mrs. Knable was our youth leader as well. My best friend was Polly. You never just said Pat, and you never just said Polly. It was always Pat and Polly. We were best friends all through grade school and high school. Polly usually spent the weekend with me and went to church with me. Daddy took her home after church on Sunday night.
We, for some reason, thought it was our job to entertain the troops at Sunday night youth meetings. Evidently Mrs. Knable wasn't as amused as the rest of the group.
One night, we showed up for youth group, as always...ready with our clever quips and giggling. As we all settled in and Pat and Polly started their usual disruptions, all of a sudden Pat, (me) turned around. Sitting in the back with her arms folded and with only the look she could give, sat none other than, Mrs Combs....my Mother.
Pat and Polly never acted up in youth group again.
You can find us under a bridge in downtown Knoxville just about every Wednesday night, unless there is some unavoidable circumstance. We have been working down there for the past 10 years or so. During those years I have become friends with many of the homeless...one of them being Georgie.
I don't know how old Georgie is because she has had white hair ever since I have known her. However, I don't think she is as old as me...but then, not many are! I am guessing she is in her late 60's.
She has an old beat up car that she lives in. Georgie is very secretive about her circumstances. I have managed to get a little bit of her story through the years. I know enough to know that her car is about gone. A couple of weeks ago, I told my friend Becky (whose family just recently sold their car dealership) that if she heard of anyone who had a car they wanted to give away, that I would love to get Georgie another car before winter sets in.
We have tried to get her into housing but she always avoids the issue.
A couple of days ago, another friend who works under the bridge with us, stopped by my house one afternoon. She said "I overheard you talking to Becky about a car for Georgie and my daughter has one she wants to give her. She was going to sell it but when I told her about Georgie, she prayed about it and decided to give it to her."
We are working out the details this week and we are also going to approach the housing situation once more and pray that Georgie will be receptive.
Coincidence?... or did the Lord orchestrate that incident under the 640 bridge? You decide.