Sunday, November 2, 2008

Day of the Dead

My mother's mother loved margaritas. We called her Clancy, although her real name was Lois Meagher. She came from a big family and grew up poor in Cumberland Furnace, Tennessee. "Clancy" suited her better than "grandmother," although I'm not sure why I called her that. She sang like a bird. She could be as silly as a girl but undoubtedly the word I've heard most to describe her, in any circle, has always been "classy". She wore ironed gloves and her hair was always perfect. She was infinitely poised.

She was beautiful. Really beautiful, with a killer smile.

My mother has told me that when she was little and they would visit Tennessee, the moment my grandmother's foot touched southern soil a southern accent would spill into her speech like honey. When I was young and we were alone for a day, she would watch All My Children with me and let me paint my fingernails with her army of polishes. She fed me Dixie cups of mini marshmallows and had the cleanest house I have ever seen. She would take me to the pool to swim and would look Fantastic. She always had plenty of cheddar Goldfish crackers. She collected owls.

She died gracefully, which was not easy, but my grandmother was the strongest woman I have ever met.

When we see rainbows we say, "there is Clancy," and at my wedding, the weather ran from blustery to foggy to rainy and hot, but she made an appearance after dinner, reaching from one end to another across the sky-- a pure stretch of almost solid color against the steel gray of the clouds. It was so vivid. I didn't even think to make sure someone got a photograph. But I'm not upset about it. It was still a perfect moment.

I won't be having a margarita, but I will be drinking some wine. I also will be cooking a full dinner, which she did almost every day. It's a real rarity for me. I love you Clancy. She also made the best pecan pie, and I thought you might like to have the recipe for it yourself. It's ridiculously easy and always tastes like a dream.

Clancy's Pecan Pie

3 cups whole pecans
1 cup light corn syrup
2/3 cup dark brown sugar
3-4 eggs (depending on size)
5 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 375 F. Line pie pan with dough and refrigerate. In a large bowl, lightly mix all of the ingredients except pecans. Once they are well blended, fold in pecans. Pour into the chilled pie crust, and bake on the lowest rack in the oven for 50-60 minutes. Let cool for 5-6 hours.

I don't know why there is the whole unsalted butter/additional salt thing going on, but I do know if you use salted butter it doesn't taste the same.

Brian made me laugh when I was feeling my most geeky and alone (ninth grade). My all-girls school and his all-boys school had a mixed show choir and that's where we met. We were both awkward. He had a beautiful deep voice. He loved to cook.

Years later, I ended up hanging out with Brian on an almost nightly basis. He still made me laugh and feel at ease. He still loved to cook. He had a huge heart that he wore on his sleeve. He did not give himself credit, and he didn't allow himself a break, although he deserved one.


Paula Scott said...

Thank you for sharing your story! I am touched by it. How fabulous that your grandmother visited you on your wedding night. Truly a most perfect moment.
And yes, I'm familiar with that pecan pie recipe. It is easy to make! And so gosh darned good.

Debbie said...

Love the picture of your grandmother and her "killer smile"! Thanks for sharing your memories of her and Brian with us :)

mansuetude said...

I think i love Clancey, too... so wonderfully written. We have a Clancey in my family, a singer and a beauty... its wonderful to hear the charisma of a woman from another time, isn't it. thanks.

'A Tuscan view.....from Umbria' said...

This is a lovely post, moving and beautifully written. A wonderful tribute to your grandmother and friend. best wishes amanda

Du Buh Du Designs said...

I bet both Clancy and Brian were amazing people, I can tell by they way each is described:) I'm noticing from all of the other posts that it's really the little things that we remember about them that really count`a reminder that we ought to treat everyone with love and respect and kindness...Thank you for posting this. I look forward to reading part 3 :)

flossy-p said...

Gosh, Clancy is gorgeous!!!! What a great photo to have of her!

Brian looks like a special soul too.

Erin said...

aw gosh guys, thanks so much! my grandmother was a looker wasn't she? even gray she was gorgeous.

And Brian, well, Brian was an amazing friend. I wish I could have held the right mirror up to him so that he could see what everyone else did.

rochambeau said...

Dear Erin,
Clancy was a wonderful roll model!
And she lives on with the rainbows and this pecan pie!!