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The Power of Story
pp. 43-45
by Joan Wink
Published by Libraries Unlimited/ABCLIO
Copyright © 2018 by Joan Wink
Chapter 2 – Loving Those Stories

Oh, Fudge

“I love your fudge recipe,” Josie said to me. “May I have it?”

“Sure, I’ve got the recipe in my head,” I replied. “Let’s sit down, and you can write it on that scrap of paper. It’s fast and easy.”

“Oh, just send it to me on an email,” she responded.

I spent the next several hours feeling really bad. “What’s up with my feelings about this fudge recipe?” I mused to myself when I went on a long walk later in the day. Writing a recipe with my computer really does make sense. Why am I feeling dismissed? Suddenly, I knew: This was not about chocolate; this was about a story.

I wanted to tell Josie that this fudge recipe came from dear Grandma Mary, who moved into my life when I was 17 years old. She was my dad’s fourth of five wives, and I wanted Josie to know who Mary was to me. This was a story about Mary.

She was the first person who told me that I didn’t have to finish eating everything on my plate. I cringed at a Sunday noon fried chicken dinner, when she looked at my dad and said, “Oh, Billy, she doesn’t have to eat that strawberry shortcake if she is full.” I put my head down and waited for the explosion. This time, none came, and I quickly excused myself and hurried to the safety of my basement bedroom. I marveled at Mary speaking the simple truth to the power in that house.

Mary brought elegance and beauty to my life, too. I loved to look at her as she rode her bike, as she worked about the house, as she sanded and finished furniture, which she rubbed with real walnuts. I could barely believe the meals: So many colors. I remember feeling that she brought a hint of safety to my life: Dare I hope?

I wanted Josie to know how much I loved Mary; how I day-dreamed about her growing old with me; how I wanted her navy blue polka-dot silk shirtwaist dress; how I wanted to look like Mary in that dress.

I wanted Josie to know that Mary flew to Philadelphia when our first baby was born and helped us. In my wildest imagination, I never thought I’d ever have anyone who would do that for me.

I wanted Josie to know that Mary left us far too soon, after a wild fire of cancer took her in a few months; I wanted to tell Josie how gorgeous Mary looked in her bright fuchsia blouse and her striking silver hair on the weekend after her diagnosis. I wanted to tell Josie how two months later when I flew to be with Mary, I didn’t recognize her at first, as cancer had consumed her: her passion, her fire, her gorgeous hair. I wanted Josie to know how my friend, MJ, had arranged a first-class airplane ticket for me to come see Mary in the hospital, and how I drank too much wine on that flight on the way home, when I knew I would never see Mary again.

And, did I tell you that Mary read books? Lots of books. Every time she had a free moment. I had never seen anything like this, and I was intrigued. As a senior in high school, I read, but only what was assigned—it had never occurred to me to read for pleasure. Suddenly today, decades after Mary died, it dawned on me that I may have received, not only the fudge recipe, but also my love of books from Mary.

Grandma Mary’s Fudge Recipe

Place these four ingredients into a large mixing bowl:
3 six-ounce packages of dark chocolate chips
¼ pound butter
2 cups chopped nuts
3 tablespoons vanilla
Place the following ingredients in a large sauce pan:
4½ cups of sugar
One 12-ounce can of evaporated milk

Bring to a boil and boil 8 minutes (use low to medium heat, and stir ever so reluctantly).  After 8 minutes of boiling, remove the pan from the heat and pour this boiling mixture over the top of the chocolate, butter, nuts, and vanilla.  Stir until the chips and butter are melted.  This takes only a few minutes.  Pour onto a 9×13-inch buttered cookie sheet and let the fudge cool.  Yes, you can now use your finger to clean the large mixing bowl.  Lick your fingers.  Cut the fudge into squares and remove them from the pan.