All week, I get to introduce you to some of my new favorites in the world of blogging, writing, authoring, and entrepreneur-ing (a word I probably just made up). With Advent upon us, I thought it would be fun to do a little bit of old-school hosting of some of the most fabulous people I know. I hope you’ll find a way to stop by for this entire series — we’ll even be posting on Thanksgiving. Feel free to subscribe for the week, so you don’t miss a post (and, you can unsubscribe when the week is done). At the end of the week, join us for your chance to win a copy of #EveryLittleThing and an Everlasting Light Shine Necklace from DaySpring. Happy Holidays!
I’ve been getting to know Claresa, bit by bit, on the Internet. Then, last month in South Carolina, I met her in person, when we both attended Allume. When I talked with her, she confirmed everything I’d suspected about who she is. She is grounded and wise. She doesn’t rush in, but approaches the world in a deliberate fashion. She is thoughtful and serene, and she invites me to see the world through the lens of beauty. And, of course, she is beautiful. I’m thrilled to welcome Claresa here, today, and so excited to introduce her to you. Enjoy!
When I was a child, I didn’t spend much time in the kitchen. I never watched my mother make dinner or asked to stir the pot when food was simmering on the stove. I always found something I would rather be doing.
But Thanksgiving was different.
I would follow my mother through the kitchen as she tore through the pantry, looking for all the ingredients to make her special banana pudding.
My grandmother used to make it—a simple, no-bake kind that seemed so different from the ones you would find at even the most popular meat and three restaurants—and she eventually shared it with my mother. You could call it a family favorite, and anyone who tried it would always request it when the holidays rolled around.
Year after year, the paper my mother wrote that recipe on lay creased and tattered on the counter as she mixed all the ingredients. There were even spots of smeared ink from all the whipping and layering that came afterwards.
I would watch closely as she covered the dish with its top layer of whipped cream and sprinkle of cookie crumbs. And when she finished, she would always look over her shoulder and invite me to lick the spoon and eat the leftover pudding from her mixing bowl.
It made me feel close to her, sharing time and space and that bit of creamy goodness.
No matter how much life changed, how much stress my mother and I faced, or how much we struggled, I always felt at home in those moments. I felt a connection that couldn’t be communicated in words. My heart was full.
As more time passed, my family stopped having its regular Thanksgiving meals, and it pained me. But my growth and those changes gave me the desire to take on the tradition of making that simple banana pudding.
In the years after my mother shared that recipe with me, I’ve shared its goodness with others I loved and felt connected to a family that always seemed far away.
I’ve lain it on aging break room tables when working on holidays meant breaking bread with co-workers.
I’ve carried it through open doors when staying home for Thanksgiving meant sitting and spending time with my in-laws.
I’ve scooped it onto paper plates when gathering to give thanks meant huddling in crowded kitchens and laughing with friends.
You’d never know it, but life was hard back then because I longed for a way to remember home–the place where my heart felt most full on this side of earth. Yet, with each batch of banana pudding I made, I was there and I felt close to my mother all over again.
Though seasons changed and the wind carried me to new places, I never forgot the moments I felt most at home. They brought joy, and a sense of connection. And I wanted them to continue.
Maybe it’s because I found God there. And I could see His glory there, right in the midst of all that loving and layering and sharing of goodness.
I want my daughter and any future children to know that joy. And remember it, as well. So I keep on making that simple banana pudding, and look forward to the days when I can peer over my shoulder and see my own child eager to finish what’s left in my mixing bowl.
“Food, in the end, in our own tradition, is something holy. It’s not about nutrients and calories. It’s about sharing. It’s about honesty. It’s about identity.” -Louise Fresco
Claresa Smith is an experienced journalist and poet at heart who loves to write about how God works in the everyday to inspire us and change us for the better. She is the wife of an artist and tech enthusiast, and spends her days chasing their spirited little girl. When she’s not writing, playing toddler games, or learning about the latest gadget, she’s usually reading, reorganizing something, or looking for her next DIY project. You can find her online at claresa.net.
Reading this post reminds me of how much I love the way my two sisters make banana pudding. Both have different recipes and both dishes are delicious. Very special memories because their banana puddings are always served at holidays. Love abounds. Happy Thanksgiving! 🙂
Wow…two sisters who make banana pudding! I’d love to be in your family! I’m so glad that this conjured up such special memories for you.
The holidays sure are a great time of year. Happy Thanksgiving!
I have never had banana pudding, but now I think I need to find a recipe. We have a jello salad recipe that my Grandma and Mom would always make for the holidays. Good memories!
No banana pudding! I definitely think you’ve been missing out! Maybe we should exchange recipes. I love jello 🙂
Hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!
That was wonderful, Claresa! So well-written and encouraging! And I definitely want some of your banana pudding 😉
It makes me so happy so see your words here. It means a lot. I will definitely have to find a way to get you some of my banana pudding 🙂
This is beautiful and brought tears to my eyes. Maybe because it struck a cord of longing for family connection. Here’s hoping that one day we’ll be able to once again share heart felt conversation and maybe some banana pudding. Happy Thanksgiving, love you, friend!
Awww. Reading this makes me want to give you a big hug. Sitting down with you would be so nice. I miss you, friend. And love you. Happy Thanksgiving!
Lynn D. Morrissey
Claresa! Any friend of Deidra’s….as the saying goes. So lovely to make your acquaintance and to be introduced to your lyrical, loving, and layered pen. And I must tell you: I’ve not thought about banana pudding for a long while. But when I was a little girl, rather than request a three-tiered birthday cake, I’d always request a layered banana pudding. My grandmother was the only one who could make it, and make it she did–to perfection. What is there about it….all that creamy goodness and richness, the subtle banana and vanilla flavor, that hint of texture from the wafer cookies. I always felt special when Grandma met my request and brought the pudding in tow when she arrived for my party. She didn’t make it for anyone else. Thank you for initiating my own walk down memory lane. How I miss my grandmother, but you’ve inspired me to carry on her tradition. Now where are those bananas?
Happy Thanksgiving, Claresa. I’m thankful for all you’ve shared and for Deidra who invited you to do so. She is such a welcoming hostess.
PS Are you game for sharing your recipe?
Thank you so much for your kind words and for sharing such sweet memories. A grandmother’s love is a beautiful thing.
Banana pudding is such a great dessert. I’d take it over cake any day!
Enjoy your Thanksgiving!
P.S. Honestly, I’ve always held tight to the recipe for some reason, but sharing this story is helping me see the beauty in sharing it. Where can I send it to you?
Lynn D. Morrissey
Oh Claresa, what a kind and generous thing to do. I’m just now reading this. I’m afraid that my grandmother’s recipe died with her. I’m so touched by your kindness. You may contact me at [email protected]. Bless you so much. Happy Thanksgiving.
As I go through the recipes I’ll be making in my kitchen in the next few days – thanks to this post – I am feeling more connected with my sweet mom, and grandma…and giving thanks for the traditions they passed down to me in their simple recipes. Thanks for such a lovely story; and so nice to meet you Claresa!
Nice to meet you Deana! I am so glad my story helped you remember how your own beautiful traditions make you feel connected to family. There’s nothing like the feeling of connection. It makes the cooking so much more meaningful. I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!
I had a special connection to my mother-in-law through cooking, and although she has been in heaven for fifteen years, every time I open her cookbook full of stained and spattered pages, I can hear her voice and be inspired by her love of good food — and her love for me. Thanks for sharing your story about hardscrabble days that were made beautiful by love and time together in the kitchen.
The rhythm of your words have sweetened my day, Claresa! Loved reading your words…