I am very privileged to have a friend like Cindy in my life! She has been through so much with me over the years that I literally “wrote” a book on her. More like a picture book but you get the idea. Cindy’s sign “Best Biscuit & Jam Maker” is in memory of her mother Doris Dowling who dubbed herself with that title and truly was. That coming from a picky eater such as myself, is really saying something!
I fist met Nana (Doris) when I was going through a rough time in my life a little over ten years ago. We went to visit her in Amarillo TX and she welcomed me with open arms. I think the fondest memory I have of her is staying in her guest bedroom and waking up to a stack of religious books/bible that would help me get through the tough time. She literally took a stranger into her home, welcomed her with the best biscuits she’d ever had and gave the best gift she could… the Bible. I don’t know that she knew what an impact she had on the lives of strangers but she did and I know because I was one of them. I also remember when she sent me my first jar of jam and OH MY GOODNESS… Cherries hands down!! I don’t even like cherries but I could eat a jar of her jam!Not to mention that it’s sacred and only a select few got the goods. I’m just lucky I was one of them.
I’d love to share more memories about Nana but think it would be best coming from those who knew her best, her daughters.
Best Biscuit and Jam Maker is a hefty title, can you share why she wore that title so well?
Cindy: The title should have been World’s Best Biscuit and Jam Maker. The biscuits were like none I have ever tasted. I have seen people cry when they tasted them. She made them for everyone she loved. Even when she was in a rehabilitation facility for a hip replacement, she made biscuits for the residents and the staff. Mother made them with (what appeared to be) no effort at all.
Although I never wanted my biscuits “defiled” with jelly (butter only, please) we all experienced the love she put into making jelly. Especially cherry jelly. Sour cherries are the size of a pea and the pit has to be removed. It is extremely time consuming and laborious. In her absence, I have tried to make this wonderful jelly for our family. The first time I made it, I called my Dad and told him that I knew Mother loved him very much since it took so much time and effort to make it. Although we have gotten close to recreating her jelly, none of us has ever been able to recreate those mouthwatering biscuits.
Terri: First, she would never call it jam, she called it jelly, as if the word jam was somehow pretentious.
If you asked her to take it easy, let you cook, help, etc., she would say, “this is my thing”.
Cooking was her creative outlet. She was a messy cook who loved the mess, much like a child making mud pies. Flour would fly, bits of dough would stick to counter-tops and utensils. She never used just one bowl when four would do. Her clothes generally had some evidence of the process. Flour in her hair, butter smeared somewhere on her shirt. Her cooking was light on presentation, it was all about the enjoyment of making something special for her special people.
To understand the exceptional quality of her biscuit, I refer to my daughter-in-law. Kellie could not understand the exuberant, almost reverent way Mom’s biscuits were described. The over-the-top expressions of anticipation as we planned the trip to Amarillo. “They’re just biscuits!”
I will always remember her first breakfast, watching as the she ate the hot biscuit slathered with melting butter, homemade jelly dripping from her fingers. The ecstasy on her face, as she laughed and said,” Oh my goodness, now I get it!”
Linda: That title really doesn’t do mom justice because making them was actually her way of showing love for those who she made them for. She poured her whole being into the making of them because she truly loved those that had the privilege and honor to eat them. Breakfast was never the same at our house when she did not make them.
If you could speak for everyone who knew or met your mom (Nana) what’s the one thing you think they’d all say about her?
Cindy: Selfless. Mother never wanted much for herself but if you admired something of hers (shoes, purse, etc.) she would either take it off right then and there or buy it for you. She was always thinking of others, caring for them, loving them, consoling them. When I moved to Amarillo, a friend told me that Mom and Dad had given her a key to their home while she was going through a terrible divorce. She said she would just come in and lay on the couch or in the guest room or just be with them when she was sad and lonely. They had never told us they did that for her. Mom cared deeply for our Daddy and all her children and grandchildren. She also has so many spiritual children and grandchildren that call her Nana. She gave her time, her heart and her love to everyone she knew. .
Terri: Generous. She gave of herself, was genuinely interested in others. Over-the-moon in crazy in love with her grandchildren.
Linda: She listened to everyone and had an uncanny way of understanding and showing genuine empathy for all of those she listened to.
I know that we all have loved ones that have touched us in different ways, what was it about your mom that made her shine in your eyes?
Cindy: She never took herself too seriously. She always “told on herself” when she made a mistake and loved it when we made fun of her (as teenage girls and daughters often do). When you made a mistake in your life (as teenagers and daughters often do) she never, ever held it against you or reminded you of your mistake later. She always understood the weaknesses of others. She forgave better and had more compassion than anyone I’ve ever known. She had a softness and kindness in her voice that made you know she understood how happy, sad, mad or hurt you were.
Terri: She could laugh at herself, and her laugh was loud and rocked her whole body. She never took herself too seriously, and she found the dumb things she did not embarrassing, but hysterical. “Call me, I have to tell you a funny story”, was a frequent message on my voicemail.
Linda: No matter how her day was going she always stopped what she was doing to listen to me and her ability to forgive for past mistakes was insurmountable.
If you could tell the world one fascinating thing about your mom and why we were so blessed to have her in our lives, what would it be?
Cindy: Mom loved to sing and we all have love for music because of our Mother. She and my grandfather sang on the radio in a station in Amarillo. She married my Dad when she was 17 and was expecting me soon after they married. A music producer called Mom and asked her if she would like to audition as a backup singer for a new group called “Buddy Holly and the Crickets.” She explained that she was expecting a child and had to decline.
She was a die hard, crazy, wild Dallas Cowboy’s fan. She was entirely too competitive when she was playing cards or a board game. She loved to fish with my Dad. She was a voracious reader and loved movies.
She loved and adored my Dad. Often, he would leave the room and she would say “I love that man.” She always told us to find a man that you love and make him first in your life and everything else will fall in place. Even when she was dying, the first thing she asked my Dad when he walked into the hospital room was if he slept well that night and how he was feeling. She set a wonderful example of a wife for her daughters.
How can you possibly describe this wonderful woman who gave so much joy, laughter and love in the lives of her family and everyone else who knew her? You just have to say, “I am Doris Dowling’s daughter.” They will smile and know that we all have been blessed.
Terri: She was a whiz at old movie trivia. I have called her uncountable times to ask “Who was it in that movie …” Not exactly the “one fascinating thing” that touched me, but a fun part of my life. Every time I have to Google a movie question, I first think, “Mom would’ve known.”
She knew the words to a million songs and could dance the jitterbug better than anyone I have ever known.
Linda: Her love for our dad, us girls and her family was unbelievable. Everyone was blessed to have her in their lives because she loved people with her whole being.