Saturday, December 01, 2007


Bedtime stories have been a tradition for at least three generations in my family. I recall my mom reading to my sister, brothers and me...Heidi, Robert Louis Stevenson's A Child's Garden of Verses poetry, and Robinson Crusoe come to mind.

My husband and I took turns reading to our daughter. He often didn't at bedtime, but while I was preparing supper. "Daddy, you skipped that part!" I'd hear her exclaim when Jim tried to get through a book more quickly.

My daughter and son-in-law, both avid readers, started reading to their children while they were infants. Reading and children go hand in hand in our household...we all still bury ourselves in a book whenever we can in spite of today's electronic world.

Stories in the Kitchen

Although most of the bedtime story reading of my youth occurred in the evening in one of our bedrooms (there were four of us children) as we sprawled on the bed. However, on cold winter evenings, Mother gathered us in front of the wood burning cookstove in the kitchen (a favorite family congregating place) and read stories. While she read, we might munch on cookies and milk or cocoa.

Reading evolves into cooking, as children learn to ponder over recipes and mix up family meals. I recall making my first cake before I fully learned to read. Mother was ill and I decided, with the help of my younger siblings, I would make a cake for supper, along with fried potatoes and eggs.

At six years old, I couldn't decipher everything in the recipe book, so decided to dispense with it and put together the ingredients I'd seen Mother use. I recall my sister and brothers around me as we stirred the batter together, then poured it into layer cake pans.

Since the wood stove oven was the only one we had, it was only natural to bake the cake there. We must have stoked the stove and read the gauge on the front of the oven door adequately. At any rate, the cake turned out fine....except it was fairly flat.

Mother, when she saw it at supper, praised our efforts, as did Father and the hired man. It was only in later years that Mother told me she concluded I'd left out the baking powder.

(c)2007 Mary Emma Allen

(I enjoy researching and writing about holiday and family memories along with teaching workshops in Family History Writing. I conduct these online as well as in person at workshops.)

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