I remember Miss Lola whenever I see a jar of marshmallow creme or a photo for a fudge recipe.
A three-course meal of popcorn (appetizer), pizza (main course), and fudge for dessert would probably cause me to expect Miss Lola to magically appear, ala Angela Lansbury.
If you were to have asked me [back then] what an angel looks like, I might have described Miss Lola. A retired school teacher, Miss Lola wore her blond-white hair in a bun on the top of her head, her round black spectacles making her eyes look big and round as an owl’s, and her quick wit and ready laughter always on the tip of her tongue.
She loved children but had never married. Since there were no grandchildren of her own crowding about her, she surrounded herself with the children at church. My dad was a pastor and my grandparents lived on the other side of the country, so my siblings and I were the happy recipients of the wealth of love in Miss Lola’s big heart.
Fudge made with marshmallow creme was her specialty. One specific memory I have is the last time we were all together in Miss Lola’s home: my sister, my brothers, and I were invited for an early evening event. The stated purpose was to teach us to make her beloved fudge. Of course, it was more than the making of fudge or even the passing on of a tradition. For that evening, we were her family — and she, ours.
When we arrived at her small apartment, we washed our hands and set to work; Miss Lola gave instructions in clear schoolmarm fashion and we followed those instructions like good students. It was all done decently and in good order. We all took turns. No one argued, no one cried or whined, no one fought. I imagine that Miss Lola’s classroom was an excellent teacher of young children in the classroom.
Once we were done making the fudge, there was fresh popcorn ready. Popcorn was the reward we happily consumed while waiting for the pizza, although I suspect (now that I have regularly fed four hungry children of my own) that popcorn might also have been a smart way to fill up our tummies a wee bit before eating pizza. Miss Lola was on a “fixed income” — a retired teacher’s pension in the 1970’s. There were 4 of us kids, so it was no small feat to fill us up at mealtimes. I think that might be why she fed us popcorn before feeding us pizza! 🙂
All three of those foods — fudge, popcorn, and pizza — were big treats. The only pizza we had regularly at home was the cheap frozen brands. Getting pizza delivered was expensive. Going out to eat at a pizza parlor was expensive for a family of 6 on a pastor’s salary. Fudge was something one hoped to find on a cookie plate offering that some people gave to their pastors (and pastors’ families). And in those days, popcorn was something you got at a movie theater, JiffyPopped over a campfire, or shook in a kettle on the stove. We didn’t have a popcorn maker or microwave popcorn (or a microwave oven). So while my dad made sure we knew what a huge gift it was when Miss Lola invited us over to make fudge, it was already intrinsically understood.
I have been thinking of and remembering Miss Lola this week. The baking of holiday treats, including fudge, is being “advertised” in my local grocery stores and on Pinterest. I am thankful that something as simple as a recipe for fudge reminds me of a wonderful woman who shared her life with us.