Every family has their unique traditions that make holidays special, and one in the Coon family is Grandma’s noodles. As a youngster, I learned very early that a holiday dinner that included my maternal grandmother would be highlighted by a big mound of home-made egg noodles, cooked in chicken broth and steaming an aroma that made it difficult to consider anything else on the plate.
My mother picked up the tradition from her mother, and in a sort of generational déjà vu, our sons have inherited the same experience I had as a boy. The close association of Grandma, noodles, and holidays has passed on to another generation and connected me with my children in a life-affirming tradition. One difference between my sons’ experience and my experience is that I only lived 40 minutes from my grandmother, but they live 9 hours away from their grandmother. Some years we don’t make the trip back to Iowa for the holidays, and one of the ways we make the connection with Grandma from a distance is by making the noodles ourselves. About four years ago our older son called Mom and asked if she would share her recipe for noodles, and she obliged. The recipe card doesn’t look much like the one in Mom’s recipe box – it lacks the clean, cursive script of her handwriting and the years of flour and fingerprints on Mom’s. But the actual product is a good approximation of what Grandma Fullerton and my sons’ Grandma Coon produce. Our version of Grandma’s noodles still comes out much thicker than Grandma’s and they vary in width and length much more than Grandma’s. But there’s enough of a similarity there to not only nourish us and satisfy our yearning for that taste, but also to remind us of Grandma’s gentle love and strong will when it comes to cooking things the right way.
It’s been fun to describe to Mom the latest update on how closely we’ve matched her version of noodles, and even more rewarding to hear the pleasure in her voice, knowing that she has continued the tradition of Grandma’s noodles. That sense of satisfaction – knowing that you’ve passed along some information to someone else in a way that adds nourishment, meaning or value to their life – is the same satisfaction we experience when one of our stakeholders has learned a new way to improve their health or to enhance their farming practice or strengthen their community in some way. Ultimately, Extension folks are motivated by that sense of accomplishment, the knowledge that they’ve helped someone to improve their life.
At this time of year, it’s important to remind ourselves again why we do what we do in Extension. Helping people to improve their lives – not improving their lives for them, but helping them to do it – is at the heart of Extension. And I feel fortunate to work with so many big-hearted people. Thanks for your patience, forbearance and hard work this year. Our challenges won’t abate, but the rewards will continue to grow. Relish that blessing as you reflect on the year that is coming to an end.