As my mother, sister, girls, and I drove down into the beautiful valley I was raised in I noted all that had changed and all that stayed the same. Each rise and corner drew forth a memory, each small town in the valley carried family history.
"Kids, that is where I lived with Dad when we went to school. This is where my Nana lived. This is where Nana took breakfast to Pompa and forgot the griddle cord." They dutifully looked. But they really got interested when food was involved. "This is where you took me for ice cream when I was little." Elisabeth said. "When you were away at college, you sent me a card with a green monster and a dollar to go get a mint chocolate chip ice cream cone." I had forgotten that, but she had remembered that little gesture. The Aggie tradition carried on with the favorite flavor being mint chocolate chip.
We pulled into a local fixture for dinner. "Mom, didn't you used to work here?"
"Yes I did."
"Where did you walk out to the cars to bring them their food? Where was the naked man's car?"
Oh, that their memories weren't quite so good.
"I bet they are still using your recipes and that is why everyone still comes here."
"Well, they never used my recipes."
"Why not? You are the best cook in the world."
I taught my girls how to squeeze just the right amount of secret recipe fry sauce on each fry before eating. We taught my niece Cami about the perfect drink, draft root beer. I walked out of the "joint" carrying a familiar stink with me for the 2 hour drive home. Food was a powerful connection for my girls and their heritage.