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December 27, 2008

Three Gifts: Meatloaf, Bedsheets and A Bible


My blur of holiday baking has come to an end. All told this season, I baked three pencil erasers that Ben molded with Sculpy and I whipped up two dozen waffles from scratch on Christmas morning with the assistance of a stiff Bloody Mary. The waffles, I have since learned, do not officially count as baking -- but even with that, my holiday baking tally board for 2008 far surpassed 2007, when I went bake-free for the entire season.

Although cooking has never inspired me, my family will tell you that I'm decent in the kitchen when I make the effort, which I usually don't. When I do try, I stick to a handful of dishes that I do best, including a stellar meatloaf that follows my grandmother's instructions from the early 1950s.

Aside from the meatloaf recipe, I have two other things from my grandmother. One is a hardy set of twin bed sheets decorated with Noah's Ark cartoons -- a gift she bought for me when I moved out of my crib as a toddler. Its high thread count now embraces her great-grandchildren at bedtime. The other item is a King James Bible from the 1920s with an inscription written lightly in pencil: "I received this Bible from Pastor Rorabeck when I was seven years old. I received it from going to church every Sunday for 2 years without missing church once. - R.B."

Roberta Beatty, my grandmother on my father's side, died before I turned 5. I have no memories of her separate from snapshots, stories told by my parents and moments captured on shaky bits of 16-milimeter film. But the traces of her faith that I find in her Bible give me a connection to her that I find meaningful: underlined passages in Psalms, a circled verse in Luke and, on the last page, a child's drawing of a cross with the words "God is Love" printed in uppercase letters.

Those three things -- a favorite dish for my family's meals, a soft place to tuck my children in at night and the guidance of verses that touched her heart -- are gifts from one generation to another.

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