I was thinking the other day that sometimes after we lose someone, it is hard to pull their face up in our memory. I need a photo sometimes to remind me exactly how she looked. I think that faces start to fade after awhile. But, I always remember her kindness and her friendship toward me. I can never remember arguing with her about anything, I never remember her saying a harsh word about me ever, and I can honestly say that we were the kind of friends that never forgot about each other. We talked on the phone a minimum of once a week. Sometimes when she couldn't reach her daughter on her cell phone she would call me and we would talk. My only regret is that I didn't make the effort to drive the three-hours to the Bay Area to visit her more. Toward the end of her life B and I would make the trip down to visit her in the care facility she was in. Being the host that she always was, she would offer to serve us something to eat or drink as though she were at home in her own surroundings. I would stop at Trader Joe's and try and pick out things for her that she could enjoy that didn't require refrigeration. Sharing a room in a care facility is not as dignified as most people would care to admit. But, she never apologized for her small living quarters, only the fact that she didn't have enough chairs for us to sit on or that she didn't have the ability to use her beloved kitchen.
Lela loved to cook. She was in her element in her kitchen and she rivaled anyone in this arena. One of her pass times if she couldn't sleep was sitting up looking at cook books. I have a few that she personally signed for me. They are my treasures. And...I also have a few of her recipes still too. I have scanned her recipe for Kosher Dill Pickles, written in her own handwriting, for you to see. Notice the attention to details that she went to in telling me that I had to use "Heinz" vinegar and that the water had to be "distilled". Even the salt had to be "canning" salt. On the back side she gives me permission to "use garlic and peppers to [your]taste" and she gives me a health warning, cautioning me not to "use if they are soft or lose color" and that I "make sure [you] scrub cukes and remove any bad spots."
I loved this woman!! She was always there for me. She never ignored me and always gave me good advice in my life. I didn't always take it but later on I wished I would have! She had a keen sense of humor and she could tell me something I didn't want to hear but it didn't make me like her any less. We shared a love of painting and flowers. She always picked up things for me that had pansies on them because she knew how much that flower meant to me. I have the most beautiful Fitz and Floyd pansy teapot that she gave me once. I was instructed "to never get rid of the box" and I haven't! We both understood chiaroscuro which is important when you are an artist. Without it, there is no dimension, no realism to representational art.
Funny how even though she is no longer here physically she is "still" here. Her handwriting proves that she once walked this earth. This summer, when I make her Kosher Dill Pickles I will once again be transported to her kitchen. Good luck wishes from Lela. Good luck from her to me. She will always be here with me. No one can ever take that away from me.
1 lug fresh picked cucumbers
1 lug fresh picked cucumbers
1 gallon white vinegar (Heinz!)
2 gallons water (distilled)
4 cups salt (canning)
Fresh Dill, garlic, and red dried peppers