A Fortune in Dough

Footprints in Sand

Forgive it Forward: Follow Those Footprints

Sometimes it helps to follow in someone’s footsteps – even if only for a short while. For that reason, Ray and I have started this series; a virtual footprint forum for muses with stories, ideas and tips that we think worth sharing. We hope your ‘walk’ with them makes your day a little lighter and brighter –and that you leave with something that inspires you to forgive it forward, backward, upward and downward!

This story is being shared under the category of forgiveness as a reminder. In the flurry of day-to-day living, it is moments like these, shared between a young boy and his mother, that capture the heart and are worthy of our capacity for memory – not the ones that disappoint. And when someone we love loses their ability to remember, these are the ones that we hold for them as well as ourselves. Which is why we found “A Fortune in Dough” by Ray Harwell priceless. So, sit back and pour yourself a cup of coffee, or tea if you prefer, and travel back in time with us as we share a precious memory in the making.

GUEST MUSINGS BY: Ray Harwell, Agricultural Research Assistant

“Tell me the story, Momma.” It had been a while since the last time I had asked and I knew that if I asked too often she would say no. She acted as though she hadn’t heard a word I had said. I stood behind her, over near the fireplace, watching as she prepared her work on the breakfast meal. I stuck a thumb in my mouth and contemplated whether or not she had, in fact, heard me. This was somewhat dangerous ground. One false move here and there would be no story this morning. Why, it may even be days if I pushed too hard. In a flurry of action she had turned on the stove eyes and the oven, gotten stuff out of the fridgedair and had made several trips to and from the sink. I had to act soon. Making my way around the table (it was an extremely large table where all members of the family had a designated seat) I saddled up close to her right side. She looked down at me and in those big beautiful brown eyes I could actually see the love pour out and down on me.

“Oh, not this morning!” she said turning once again to her work. “Your daddy will be in from the barn soon and I need to have things ready.” It was time for a bold move. Removing the thumb from my mouth and wiping it on my shirt, I started tugging on one of the many straight-backed chairs that surrounded that grandest of all tables. I pulled and pushed and pushed and pulled until I had it right up against the cabinet to Momma’s right.  A quick glance assured me this had not caused her to stray from her task. The chair was in place with its back pushed tight against the cabinet and after a brief struggle I found myself in the most perfect place in the whole wide world.

flowers in field

Momma was still acting as if I was nowhere around and this was good. She pulled open the cabinet door that was directly in front of her and below. From there she retrieved the dough board and sifter. In one action she loaded the sifter with the right number of handfuls of flour (White Lily if you please) and placed it on the cabinet in front of her. I was amazed at how fast she could sift that flour and never let it spill over the sides but land perfectly in the dough board making a mound. Once again she stooped into the lower cabinet and came back up with just the right amount of pure hog lard in her right hand. Those hands of hers were a great mystery to me. With those same hands she had rendered the lard that she now rubbed onto flat pans and mixed into the flour. Those hands, that wiped with all tenderness the tears from my eyes, had picked cotton and hoed rows and rows. The little finger on her right hand was bent at the second joint and was stiff. I had asked her many times why that was but she would only say she hurt it as a child. I still can not rightly say. Even with that stiff pinky she worked that lard into the flour until it was exactly like she wanted it. She made a valley in the middle and poured in the fresh milk a little at a time with her left hand while mixing steady with her right.

My thumb had once again found my mouth and I leaned in close to her, my head against her hip. Even now when I think of this moment in my life, repeated so often before so many meals, I can still feel her warmth beneath a faded dress. Her smell fills my senses and I find, if only for an instant, that feeling of greatest love and security that can only be that of mother and son, the way it was intended to be.

The moment of truth had arrived. If Momma were going to tell me the story it would be now. She had kneaded the dough until it suited her and with a pat she pinched off the first biscuit.

“This is Ray on the day he was born.” she said as she rolled the tiny bit of dough in her hands and, patting it flat, laid it onto the greased pan.  “It was one of the hottest days in July.”  The story had begun.

Pinching off a slightly larger piece and rolling and patting it flat she said, “And this is Ray when he turned one year old.” She placed it in the pan next to the first one and I could see that I had grown in size. “This is Ray when he will start first grade and he will learn how to read and write.” Momma said, as she placed this even larger biscuit next in line. “You’ll have lots of fun there and you will be so smart!” she would say. “Who will my teacher be?” I would ask. “Will I like her?” “Maybe you will have Miss Thornton or you might have Miss Fleming.” she would reply. As she answered my questions she was preparing the next biscuit. In like manner, she took me through grammar school and into high school. I noticed the biscuits were now much the same size as her regular ones and she told me that I would continue to grow but not as fast and I wouldn’t notice it as much. Sometimes she would tell me of girlfriends I would have, of learning to drive and working on the dairy with Dad. She would usually take me through high school graduation and tell me how proud she was of me for getting through school. Then she would add a slightly smaller pinch of dough and place it on the pan really close to the last in line. “And this is the lucky girl that Ray will marry and he will love her very much and she will love him too!” she would say.  “What’s her name?” I would ask.  “That’s for YOU to find out!  You’ll know her when you see her.” was all she would ever say.

On a daily basis Momma made many pan-fulls of biscuits. Usually two, sometimes three, every meal for a long time. I only asked for the story at breakfast and have often wondered why. It may be that after the sun was up there were too many other things to hold my attention. It may well have been because that was the routine and like the cows, from which we gained our living, I was merely a creature of habit. For me, however, it was because that was MY time with Momma. My sister was still asleep; Dad and what brothers were still at home were at the barn milking. There was only the two of us in that small country kitchen as Momma told my fortune in dough and with it gave me insight into phases of life and love and even the heartbreak that would forever be part of me and of us all.

Many years have come and gone and in their goings have taken away many of the memories created so long ago.

Several years ago, as Momma was struggling so valiantly against one of the worst diseases of this world, Alzheimer’s, I was watching her make biscuits. She was eighty-two, I was forty-six. She could still do pretty well. I eased up against her and said, “Tell me the story, Momma.” She stopped immediately with her preparation and after a brief moment she looked up at me with those same clear brown eyes of so long ago and smiled at me with a smile that could only have been sent from God. I swear that it warmed me like the sun breaking from behind the clouds on a cool day.  She did not attempt to tell me the story nor was I expecting her to. The moment was just that – a moment.

But in that fleeting moment we connected again on that level that was the love of mother and son, the way it was intended to be. Time nor disease will ever take away nor change this memory of mine. I will not let it.

My wife and sons and daughter (by the way, all foretold in long ago dough) have heard this story. My sister, Faye, has heard this story.  And now you can hear it, too. And with each telling or reading or remembrance time is rendered impotent in its abilities to steal.

I miss her. I miss her a lot. Writing this has been difficult for me but necessary. Not to share this great gift – so freely given to me by my mother so long ago that started me on my life’s journey and provided the ground for a connection years later – would be the most selfish of action.

So, that is the story. As I sit here in front of the computer screen and read it over with wet red eyes and tears on cheek, I think of how much I loved her – how I love her still.

Ray HarwellRay is a retired Agricultural Research Assistant with the University of Georgia.  He lives in Madison with his wife of 36 years. Their three children are grown and gone with five children of their own.  He is now occupied with the care of an old friend, 93 years young, and making wind chimes from glass and recycled materials. He is also finding the path from which he strayed in days gone by and is learning to reframe, forgive forward and reconnect with that inner artist abandoned so long ago.

FIF: Earth boyDid you miss the Forgive it Forward video? Click here to see the 3-minute video!

Curious how it ALL started?  CLICK HERE to see the 2-minute video book trailer that started it all!

©2010 Enlightened Ink – If you are inspired to share or quote from this article please share us with it. Together we grow.  


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14 thoughts on “A Fortune in Dough

  • September 3, 2010 at 9:46 am

    Thank you Ray, for sharing that beautiful, heartfelt story… A precious moment, in time…a treasured memory…. and, something that will most likely cause each person that reads it to stop and think, for a bit, about a moment they may have had, with a mother, grandmother or other – or, the possibility of one they will create.

    • September 3, 2010 at 6:23 pm

      Thank you, Michele,for your kind remarks regarding A Fortune in Dough. It is a very special story to me and one that wrote itself while sitting at the computer a few years ago. Since that time it has been wandering around in our old Gateway computer, now closed down except on rare occasions. After being introduced to Bernadette by a really close friend, I felt led to rescue it from the depths of Windows 98 and set it free. With her help, the story has found its voice and speaks to you as I hope to many more. I have enjoyed you muses and, once I feel more at ease with myself and this medium, will return your kindness with a reply in honor of your story. Thanks again so very much. Ray

      • September 15, 2010 at 9:06 am

        There are no coincidences … got to love the journey!

  • September 10, 2010 at 12:17 pm

    What a beautiful story; what wonderful memories. Love like that never dies, it lives on long after the light has dimmed and the darkness falls. Thank you, Ray, for the blessings you bestowed by sharing your mom, your story, your self.
    Namaste, Sharron

    • September 11, 2010 at 8:15 pm

      Thank you so much, Sharron, for your kind response to my humble story. I pray that you are correct in you prediction that love never dies. I have always believed in my life that true love does, in fact, live forever in the heart and soul of those willing to let it in. Whether this love is felt for a parent or sibling or child or even for those few people met on the paths of our lives and given our hearts. That love does and will remain in our hearts and minds for all eternity. You have confirmed this by your kind remarks. I thank you, Sharron, for your time in passing this response to me and for sharing it with all those who may read it. You have, indeed, returned the blessing.
      With warm regards,

      • September 15, 2010 at 9:04 am

        Sharron! I’ve missed you. 🙂 Hope everything is going smooth with your ‘project.’

  • September 14, 2010 at 4:32 pm

    That was beautiful Ray! Thank you for sharing your very personal story. I will never forget it. Watching my parents age is one of the hardest things I have faced so far. Your story will help as we contiue on this journey.

    • September 14, 2010 at 7:03 pm

      Thank you, Pam, for taking the time out of you really busy life to read this story and then to write such a lovely comment. It is appreciated more than you will ever know. Watching as your parents age is a most difficult period in the life of a child, at least for that child that sees and loves the parents. I know that you are numbered in this category. I hope that you will find some comfort in the times that lay ahead for you by thinking of this little story and know that others are here for you should you need them. It is all in the seeking. Thanks again, dear friend.

      • September 15, 2010 at 9:03 am

        Welcome, Pam! We are glad you are here and hope you come back. All the best to you on your journey.

      • February 13, 2011 at 10:55 pm

        dear ray,
        first i want to thank you for sharing and for touching my heart. the reason why i do this in a reply to YOUR reply to PAM’s response, is your above sentence “it is all in the seeking”. after passionately sharing this view for a long time, i’ve been blessed with the insight that “it is all in the finding”. when i talk to God, to the divine, i can feel that there is no separation, that we are all ONE indeed. seeking leads you on a journey, but eventually you arrive where you started: at home. being at home in your body, right now, provides you with everything you need. it can even provide you with everything you wish for – your true and honest heartfelt wishes – though that might take a moment. in all our love, we can very well be with God/Goddess/all that Is while we are still in our bodies. so, our love connects us also with those who have left behind the body we knew them in. i am absolutely certain that they have no problem regarding our presence but we sometimes seem to have one acknowledging theirs. as love is the substance of creation, it MUST be eternal.
        thank you and be blessed and protected!

  • September 15, 2010 at 9:01 am

    I’m loving the heartfelt exchanges happening here. This is a difficult topic for many of us who are now experiencing the shift of parent/child to child/parent … and all the various ways that manifests in day-to-day life. I find it synchronistic that Ray Harwell’s story came to us at a time when Ray (the muse I’m growing old with 🙂 ) and I are going through what we are with his Mom … who is soon to be 97. It has been an especially challenging year and summer and we find comfort in the smallest of moments … as Mr. Harwell so beautifully shares!!

  • March 12, 2011 at 10:27 pm

    Ray I loved your story. My Mom has been gone for 20 years and I miss her every day I live. She was the one person I could count on when the going got ruff. I remember how she would never tell me she love me in front of someone she would even say “Well you are suppose to” but if noone was in the room she would say “You Know I love you To.” I miss that… I really miss that. I missed her so much the year she died I went to Savannah and few a kite and then I said a prayer and Let it float up to her. She didn’t send it back so I just have to believe she got it . Just a dream Just a dream… After that the pain was releast some. I really do understand your story. Thank you for sharing it with everyone.

    • March 13, 2011 at 7:28 am

      Thank you Linda for your most kind words and also for sharing your own story. I loved the fact that you flew and then released a kite in honor of your Mom. That touched my heart. If it is indeed a dream then it is a wonderful and beautiful dream that she received you offering and that she is holding it with loving hands for that day when she may fly it and fly with it in your company and in your love. We all have special memories of our mothers. I think the lesson that we should learn is to let them know of our love in this life which, in so doing, will almost guarantee our love in future lives. Thank you so much for sharing your story and for appreciating mine. May you always be blessed.

  • March 13, 2011 at 7:42 am

    I want to back up and respond to the wonderful comments by Evelyn written on February 13th. I am so sorry for my tardiness in responding to you. I have been dealing with the illness and loss of a ninety-three year old friend and have not had much time for doing those things that make me happy. I thank you so much, Evelyn, for your wise philosophy and for you sincere kindness. Of course you are correct in stating that the finding is really the true goal of our spiritual nature and the goal, whether consciously or unconsciously, of all human beings. I think that we seek to return to our maker and return we will. It is such a blessing to seek and find while we are still in our conscious states and not wait until death reunites us. It is my belief that the seeking is the challenge and the finding the reward. Thank you so much for commenting on my story about my Mom. She was a special person while in this world and is, I am certain, special in that world in which she now abides. May you always find blessings in you life when you are least seeking them.

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