The Mountain Laurel
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Mamie Crowder Adams - Recipe for Raising Children

By Angie Gambill © 2015

Online: January, 2015

Mamie Crowder Adams on left, others unknown.Mamie Crowder Adams on left, others unknown.(Editor's Note: Angie Gambill is Editor of The Tomahawk, the weekly newspaper in Mountain City, Tennesee. The Tomahawk has been in publication since the 1880s.)

"Take a heaping helping of self-sacrifice, a generous portion of humor, equal amounts of understanding and patience, and mix well. Add discipline as needed. Apply to childhood on a daily basis, allowing all ingredients to develop and blend over time in the warmth of a mother's love. Process should not be shortened or rushed, and all ingredients must be pure and unadulterated as substitutions may result in an inferior product. (Note: Consult the family Bible often for further instructions and possible recipe alterations for each child. May find directions easier to understand and follow from a kneeling position.)"

Children don't come with instruction books, so Mama, Mamie Crowder Adams, wrote her own.

Actually, it's more a recipe book, a whole collection, gathered and written over a lifetime, all coming together to produce a close knit family that has withstood the storms of life and time.

Like any good cook, Mama didn't mind making a few changes to her recipes when the occasion called for it, adding some extra spice here or a little seasoning there. We also learned that no matter what kind of mess we three girls cooked up, Mama could always salvage something useful by diluting it with lots of humor. Laughing together could make the bitterest of dishes go down smoothly. Laughter certainly is good medicine, and she made it a daily supplement to our diet.

When I think of the countless ingredients that Mama stirred into my childhood and teenage years and the care with which she did it, I am simply astounded.

First to mind is my mother's unwavering faith in God and her unfaltering commitment to instill that faith in us. She knew that God has no grandchildren, and that her Christianity could not sustain us. We must ultimately discover and claim our own relationships with Christ. Some of my earliest memories are of Mama carrying me to the little country church just down the road from Grandma's house. On my knees in that cinder block building, I gave my heart to Jesus, with Mama at my side. I didn't know then how she searched and prayed for a place to worship that would teach her children more about God's love and grace, and less of the wrath and condemnation that had terrified her as a child. "I don't want my kids to be afraid of God. I want more for them than fire insurance." I can still hear those words echo through the years.

Mamie Crowder Adams giving her grandaughter, Brittany Gambill Dorman, a cooking lesson.Mamie Crowder Adams giving her grandaughter, Brittany Gambill Dorman, a cooking lesson.I have to wonder if the Lord revealed to her in one of their early morning conversations that her daughter would one day sit in the pews of that same little church house again, this time as the wife of the pastor. Maybe that was how she found it in her heart to give her blessing for the youngest of her children to marry at the tender age of seventeen. I could not fully appreciate until now, looking at my own daughter, the well of faith that Mama drew from to make that decision. God had already chosen my life's soul mate, and twenty-five years later, I am truly grateful for her foresight.

Of course, Mama knew that no recipe was complete until a few grains of self-worth were added to the mixture. So skillful she was at slipping ingredients into our lives that we rarely detected the addition. I only knew that when my classmates' mothers were complaining about having kids underfoot on snow days that Mama and I made "snow cream." We would take a huge tin dishpan outside and gather freshly fallen snow, usually from the cellar loft roof where no prowling dogs or cats or elephants could spoil the clean powder. Once our pan was piled high, we took it in the kitchen and added vanilla, sugar and cream, transforming it into the most delicious frozen concoction imaginable. No three dollar ice cream cone will ever match the satisfaction and tranquility that warmed my heart on those days. I knew I was special. Why else would Mama love snow days as much as I did? In fact, occasionally we called our own "snow day." It didn't matter to us if it fell in early September when the sugar maples in the backyard had not yet felt the first frost of the season. We might spend the day baking mouth-watering sugar cookies and homemade chocolate icing, or I might sit at her feet as she stitched tiny flannel gowns and housecoats for my Barbie doll. The master chef had once again worked her magic, and my horizons widened.

Countless memories flood my mind as I think back over my childhood. Each so ordinary then, so extraordinary now...

One of my favorites was hearing Mama say, "I would fight a blue circle saw for my girls." I never quite understood what kind of creature a 'blue circle saw" was, but I had no doubt Mama would fight it to the death if it dared raise its ugly head to one of us!

No one could ever accuse my mother of being mealy-mouthed or timid about anything. She never beat around the bush, but just came right out with whatever was on her mind. "Plain talk is easily understood," she'd say, and we knew these were words to live by.

None of us kids were strangers to work; quite the opposite. Mama was a firm believer that idle hands are the devil's workshop. This coupled with the fact that we had no brothers to help Daddy meant we all did our share of yard and garden chores and even helped out in his cabinet shop. But Mama always made sure we remembered that we were, first and foremost, ladies. Nothing would set her off faster than to find us hoeing beans or stacking firewood without the protection of work gloves. There was no excuse for rough and callused hands at church on Sunday morning.

Mama's recipe for raising three daughters in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Tennessee has given us a strong sense of home and family. And time has only strengthened the bond that ties my sisters and me; tying us to each other; tying us to Mama and Daddy, to Grandma, to Grandpa; and tying us to our own children and grandchildren; tying us to our aunts, our uncles, our cousins, our nieces, and our nephews. We have learned through the years that many things in life may come and go, but family is forever. We drink deep from the wellspring of our childhood and we draw strength from the heritage that is ours.

I pray that today Mama is as pleased with the results of her recipe, that has been a lifetime in the making, as we are proud and grateful that she is our mother.