"There is nothing in the world of art like the songs mother used to sing.” - Billy Sunday
In 1973, the year my little sister was born, country legend Tom T. Hall released a song entitled simply, “I Love.” As you can imagine, this was a sweet song, and if you haven’t heard it, I encourage you to find it and give it a listen.
Mr. Hall sings,
"I love little baby ducks, old pickup trucks
The reason I know this song at all is that Mama would sing it to Sherrin and me when we were little girls. I didn’t know who Tom T. Hall was; I was busy listening to Kermit the Frog sing “It’s Not Easy Being Green” on repeat on my record player. But Mama had heard it, I suppose on the radio, and it must have made her happy. She would often sing it to us at home, or in the car, or wherever we were when we needed comforting, or help falling asleep. We’d tease her about her not-always-on-pitch voice in our teenage years, but as tiny girls, the sound of Mama singing us to sleep was pure comfort and love.
Years sped by, as years do, and I went away to college in Pensacola to get my degree at UWF. I got married a few years later, and then had three little boys. We moved to Texas one year for my husband’s job, and soon after we settled into our new home, Mama and Sherrin drove from Florida to see us. The boys were 2, 3 and 5 at the time. I remember mom holding them at different times while she was there, rocking in the chair in my kitchen, and I can only imagine that she might’ve sung a few lines of that special song to them then, too.
"I love little country streams, sleep without dreams,
Sunday school in May, and hay...
And I love you, too..."
Some years later, after Mama had passed and the boys were in high school, our washing machine stopped working, right in the middle of my tackling the mountain of laundry a family of five creates. Frustrated, I loaded the laundry basket, detergent and my laptop into my SUV and headed to the nearest Laundromat, six miles away. I dropped quarters into the largest machine to get the job done as quickly as possible, and sat down at a table. I opened my computer and began to scroll through the dozens of work emails I’d already received since I had left the house, and half-listened to the country classics radio music that was being piped into the Laundromat from elsewhere in the building.
A few minutes passed, and after a few familiar tunes by artists like Dolly, Waylon, and Willie, Mr. Tom T. Hall began singing over the loudspeakers in his low, gentle, storyteller’s voice. My ears perked up immediately as they recognized the song I hadn’t heard in years, and in the midst of my frustration over the broken washer on a busy night when I had more pressing things to do than sit in a Laundromat, I felt Mama's presence as he sang the words that swept me right back to her lap in childhood. “I love little baby ducks, old pickup trucks….and I love you...”
Those words had brought me so much comfort when she’d sung them to me years before, and right there in that Laundromat, they did once again. My eyes welled up with tears. Crying in a Laundromat on a Friday night…maybe I should write a country song, myself. I think she’d have liked that.
I love you, too, Mama.
Mother’s Day recipes for the Mom you love:
That always special holiday, Mother’s Day, is this weekend, and you may be unsure what to get or do for the mom you love. Get her something pretty (not a vacuum cleaner unless she has specifically requested one) and make her something to eat with your own two hands. Burnt toast is sweet when it’s made by a 4 year old, but if you’re a bit older, here are some things you can try. Something made by your own hands always says to a mom, “I love you, too!"
First, my creamy strawberry pie, made with fresh berries, cream cheese and a graham cracker crust. It’s easy to make, but no one has to know it!
No-bake creamy strawberry pie
12 ounces heavy whipping cream, whipped in a bowl
12 ounces light cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup of granulated sugar (2/3 cup if berries aren't very sweet)
2 1/2 cups strawberries, stems and hulls removed, washed
1 store-bought graham cracker pie crust
1. Combine the whipped cream and room-temperature cream cheese together in a medium-sized mixing bowl, stirring or mixing until completely combined with no lumps of cream cheese visible.
2. Puree two cups of the berries in a blender or food processor. Fold them into the whipped cream mixture.
3. Pour the mixture into the crust. Slice the remaining berries, then arrange on top of the pie however you’d like. Cover with plastic wrap, and put in the freezer for an hour or so.
Note: If it freezes for longer than an hour, you may have to allow some thawing time before slicing. You want to slice when firm but not rock hard.
Next, I love this flavor-filled, fresh and cool fruit salad, which is perfect for brunch. To make this fruit salad with the flavor of a mojito, I've used lime juice and rum extract to dress the fruit, and it is excellent!
Mojito fruit salad
5-6 cups of your favorite fruits (I used watermelon cubes, blueberries, sliced strawberries, pineapple chunks and sliced grapes)
Toss together in large salad bowl
For the dressing:
Combine juice of two limes with 1/4 teaspoon rum extract in a small bowl, then add 1/4 cup fresh chopped mint leaves. Pour over fruit.
Toss again, chill, then serve in pretty bowls. Garnish with mint leaves, if desired.
Note: Rum extract is sold on the spice aisle, next to the vanilla extract.
Finally, here is a pretty, delicious cake for mom, grandmother, or anyone you love. This cake is perfectly spring-y, with its lemon yellow color flecked with pink berry pieces. It’s moist and delicious, too.
1 box lemon cake mix (I used Duncan Hines)
1 small box instant lemon pudding mix
1 cup milk
1/3 cup oil
1 cup fresh raspberries (roughly chopped fresh strawberries could also be used)
Juice of one lemon (about three tablespoons, so may need more than one lemon if they’re small)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a bundt pan with cooking spray, or use shortening and flour to grease the pan.
Combine all ingredients in a large mixer bowl, tossing the berries into the cake mix first to coat before adding wet ingredients. Blend all ingredients by hand for two minutes, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl as you go along. (If using a hand mixer, you will want to add the berries at the very end of blending instead, or they will disintegrate more than is ideal)
Pour into bundt pan, then bake for 40 to 50 minutes, testing for doneness with a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake. It is done when toothpick comes out of the cake clean.
Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then invert over a cake plate.
For the glaze:
One cup powdered sugar
One tablespoon lemon Juice
1/4 cup milk
Tiny pinch of salt
Whisk ingredients together; if glaze seems too runny, thicken by adding another tablespoon of powdered sugar. Blend well, then drizzle all over the cooled cake. Enjoy!
“Motherhood: All love begins and ends there.” - Robert Browning
Stephanie Hill-Frazier is a writer, food blogger and regional television chef, whose on-air nickname is "Mama Steph." She grew up in Gulf County, on St. Joe Beach, a place she will forever call home.
She is married and has three young adult sons who surprise her somehow every Mother’s Day. You can find more of her recipes at whatsouthernfolkseat.com.