The thing I love most about this time of year is reconnecting with friends and family over the phone and through cards, notes and letters.
My friend Geraldine Stokes Wilds, daughter of Sam and Mamie Stokes, graduated from Robert Smalls, studied at Mather School, moved to New York and started her career at the Housing Authority, which is where she was when I arrived in Beaufort.
Her father operated a gas station on Bay Street, later moving to Boundary Street. Her mother was a midwife.
As a young person and a graduate of Allen University, I became a member of Grace Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church, and the Stokeses were just one of the families who took me under their wings.
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This was a custom at the time. Churchgoing folks would make sure the younger set would continue in the paths of their upbringing and not stray or get lost in the hustle and bustle while spreading one’s wings away from home. It was as if there were a second pair of eyes watching your every step.
Mrs. Stokes told me she wished I could meet her daughter. But it seemed as though every time Geraldine came home to visit, I was in Columbia, spending time with my family.
After retirement, our paths finally crossed. Loretta Bruce, a mutual friend, made the introduction at a church gathering.
Geraldine had also been told over the years that she needed to get to know me. The two of us had very little to say at first as we had both been told so much about the other. But then we talked about fashion.
Both of us are tall and have difficulties finding clothing long enough; many looks are simply too short for our age bracket. We both also have trouble finding shoes. We talked about the times we ordered them through catalogs only to find that we had ourselves a toe pincher when the shoes arrived. That’s when we came up with the idea of a shoe exchange.
We became Lottie Miles’ “strays.” How happy we were to be chosen to work on certain projects and spend hours celebrating the successes of making others feel better. Our ventures would be celebrated with food; Lottie Miles knew the favorites of all.
Then there was the January Group of Family and Community Leaders. Cora Green, Julie Cordray, Eddie Lee Brown, Harriet Ravenel, Florence White and Geraldine would gather during the Christmas season to plan for the meeting, and it was Geraldine who asked that the meeting be held at my home.
The closeness her mother so wanted for us developed.
It was the time of year that we would plan our menus for the holidays, choose the recipes we would prepare and address Christmas mail together. This year, though, I did it without Geraldine Wilds, who passed away in May.
As I removed her name from my address book, I remembered all good times we had together.
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 medium zucchini squash, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 medium yellow squash, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 teaspoon dried basil leaves
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
Combine onion, garlic and oil in 10-inch nonstick skillet. Cook over medium high heat for 2 to 5 minutes, or until onion is tender, stir frequently. Add squash, basil and salt. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes or until squash is tender-crisp, stir constantly. Stir in tomatoes. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, or until hot, stir constantly. Remove from heat. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
4 cups water or chicken broth
4 pounds collard greens
1 ham hock
2 medium onions, chopped
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 cloves garlic
In water or chicken broth, cook ham hock until done. Cut and wash collards and add to pot with ham hock. Add remaining ingredients and cook until tender, stirring occasionally. Allow to cool a few minutes after cooking to increase flavor.
2 8-ounce packages frozen chopped broccoli
1 10 3/4-ounce can cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 small onion, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup crushed buttered flavored crackers
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place frozen broccoli in water and cook according to directions. Drain. In a bowl, combine soup, mayonnaise, cheese, egg, onion and butter. Gently add broccoli to mixture. Pour mixture into a well-greased 1 1/2 quart baking dish. Sprinkle with crushed crackers. Bake for 30 minutes or until thoroughly heated.