They say some traits and characteristics can skip a generation, and I’m living proof of that. My mom was a talented baker – I am absolutely not (my list of baking failures is far too long to describe) – and my daughter Ruby thankfully followed in Nana’s footsteps. Baking was “their thing.” They would spend hours together in the kitchen, trying out new recipes, experimenting with different types of flour, and giggling over stories. Nana would wake up at 4am on the days she had chemo or radiation to treat her Stage IV Metastatic Breast Cancer so she could bake goodies for the nurses and doctors at the Cancer Center. Hospitality was her love language and she loved to share baked goodies with everyone in her life. The one constant throughout all their baking adventures was Pumpkin Bread. They both had the recipe perfected and memorized. It didn’t matter the time of year – if it was a crisp fall day or a sweltering summer afternoon – there would be a batch of freshly-baked Pumpkin Bread in Nana’s kitchen.
After she passed away, Ruby has continued to bake this recipe, even through her tears of grief on some days. It is a way she is able to still feel connected to her Nana. The smell of Pumpkin Bread wafting through our house is a powerful one for me, triggering many memories, thoughts, and feelings. It can feel like a warm hug from my mom in her physical absence. It is the most comforting smell and a sweet reminder of the love we still share in our hearts.
During my mom’s memorial service earlier this year, I shared this with our friends and family who had come to honor her “My daughter, Ruby, spent countless hours in the kitchen with Nana baking – Nana taught her everything she knew. Those moments were my mom’s biggest joy. Baking was their favorite pastime and hobby – they were quite the dynamic duo in the kitchen – and we weren’t ever mad about it when Ruby would come home from her house with bags of freshly baked cookies or brownies. My mom’s famous Pumpkin Bread recipe is written to perfectly make 7 mini-loafs of bread. This recipe size might seem strange, but it wasn’t an accident – it was intentional on her part – she would save one loaf of Pumpkin Bread for herself, then would give away the other 6 loaves to friends or family or strangers who would later become friends. I’d like to ask a favor of each of you – something that will help to continue to share my mom’s beautiful legacy of showing love, hospitality, and lifting up prayers. I had tea towels printed with her hand-written Pumpkin Bread recipe on them. Please grab one for your family at the back of the church on your way home. Bake the recipe – save a loaf for yourself, then give the other 6 loaves to friends and family. While you’re baking the recipe, pray for them individually. When you share the Pumpkin Bread with them, have a good conversation with them, hug them tightly, and honor the memory and legacy of the most amazing woman I’ve ever known. I know she will be smiling down from heaven watching you share her love.”
Nana would be thrilled to know we have the opportunity to share her recipe with The WARM Place. I would encourage you to try the recipe out with your loved ones this holiday season. It’s been so fun to see our friends and family sending us pictures of them doing the same – and it fills our hearts to see Nana’s legacy continue to live on.
The warmest thank you to Jaedeanne Shaver for sharing this sweet story and memory with us.