The Inheritance

By Joyce Maynard, "The Inheritance," May/June 2012

Author Joyce Maynard's essay on inheriting her mother's recipe box.

"I picture Joyce's mom, as well as mine, in that kitchen with one spoon in one hand and the other hand resting on the counter while reading these treasured index cards. Lovely homage. "

In the family where I was raised, money came in short supply, but casseroles and cookies were plentiful.

They were homemade, always—the ingredients and instructions for each written on a card in my mother’s recipe box. It sat on our kitchen counter at all times—with those Pennsylvania Dutch girls printed on the top—never completely closed, because there were just so many cards jammed in, alongside the coupons and box tops and Green Stamps.

Not that my mother didn’t have some other talents. She’d earned herself a Ph.D. from Radcliffe. She had hundreds of poems committed to memory. She could conjugate Latin verbs or paint shutters while singing along to Johnny Cash or Don Giovanni or inspire a classroom of the enlisted men to whom she taught English, to shed tears for Ethan Frome. She sewed her dresses, and my sister’s and mine, and those of our dolls. But in some ways, her greatest opportunities for self-expression occurred in our kitchen.

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