If you follow me on Facebook, read my blog, or have read some of the articles I have written for A Primitive Place & Country Journal magazine, you know about the yearly Christmas tradition of my grandma and me making bon bons. If you are not aware of that tradition, I will give you a quick synopsis.
Thirty-two years ago, when I was twelve and my grandma was fifty-nine, my grandma called me and asked if I wanted to help her make bon bons for Christmas. Bon bons are a Christmas candy that my grandma had made for years. I always enjoyed her bon bons, which is a combination of peanut butter, graham crackers, coconut, and pecans made into a ball and dipped in chocolate. When she asked me to help, I immediately said yes. My grandma and I were always close and I loved spending time with her, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity to be with her and learn how to make something that I had always enjoyed.
That simple phone call turned into a thirty-year tradition. Every Christmas for thirty years I would go to her house and we would make bon bons. For thirty years, we sat around the same kitchen table. For thirty years, we shared our lives with each other. We told stories, we laughed, and we cried. We reminisced about the past, and we dreamed about the future. It was during those times that my grandma told me the story of her life. We sat at the kitchen table and aged. Who would have ever thought that that twelve-year-old boy and fifty-nine-year-old woman would still be sitting around that same table when the boy was 43 and the woman was 90! When I think about that, I am just amazed and so grateful that I was given that great gift. I would not trade anything for those times with my grandma. I truly believe it was part of God’s plan for my life, and I truly believe those times help to shape me into the person that I am today and the person I will become tomorrow.
As many of your know, my grandma went to Heaven on May 22, 2016. It is has been an adjustment living my life without her, but she has made her presence known, and I know that she continues to walk with me and guide me. Her guidance is just from a different place in a different way. For several months people had been asking me if I was going to make bon bons this year. I always answered the same way: “I will make them again, but not this year.” I was adamant about my response and felt like it was the right thing to do. However, the question was continually asked.
As Christmas began to draw closer, I thought more and more about the times I made bon bons with my grandma. She would always start talking about it at Thanksgiving, and we would start collecting all the ingredients that we needed to make them. This Thanksgiving she was not there to talk to me about them. As Jeff and I were leaving my parents’ house on Thanksgiving, my mom asked me again if I was going to make bon bons this year. I answered in the same way that I had continually answered the question: “I will make them again, but not this year.”
On December 5th I woke up and was sick. I had to stay home from school that day. Jeff went to school and the Ps had grooming appointments so I was completely alone in the house. This is a very rare occurrence. I was walking around looking at the Christmas decorations and thinking about my grandma. I was thinking about all the years that we had made bon bons and how strange it was that we were not making them this year. I decided that I wanted to listen to some music on YouTube. I do this occasionally. I put my headphones on and listen to a song that I feel like I am supposed to listen to. It is kind of a way that I meditate and center myself. I decided to listen to the song “O Holy Night.” I wanted to hear the David Phelps version of the song, which was part of a Gaither Christmas special. The Gaithers have always played an important role in my past Christmases. My grandma loved them and had many videos of their specials, and she would watch them over and over again. She always chose a Christmas special to have on the television when she and I made bon bons.
As I was listening to the song, I was naturally thinking even more about my grandma and me making bon bons. Suddenly, a memory came flooding back to me. It took place maybe four years ago. I was standing in my grandma’s kitchen making bon bons and she said, “You know, one day grandma is not going to be here. When that happens, I don’t want you to be sad and I want you to keep making these bon bons.” Not wanting to think about her not being here anymore, I quickly answered, “I will.” I was hoping that would satisfy her and we could get on with making bon bons, but she was not derailed. She took my hand and looked me right in the eye and said, “You promise?” I can still see her gray eyes looking at me as she said those words. I said, “I promise.”
As I listened to that song and remembered the promise I had made to my grandma, I knew that I had to make bon bons this year. I argued a little with myself and said, “Who would I even ask?” I uttered the question out loud, and I heard my grandma’s voice and she said, “Ask your mother. She is the closest you can get to me on this earth.” Even as I type those words, I am filled with such astonishment. I had never thought about asking my mom. I have no idea why the thought had not occurred to me, but it hadn’t.
When Jeff got home from school I was still wrestling with the idea of making bon bons. I told Jeff that I really felt like I should make them. I said to him, “Who do you think grandma would want me to make bon bons with this year.” He thought for a minute and then said, “Your mom.” That was enough for me. I immediately texted my mom and said, “Will you make bon bons with me this year?” She responded immediately, “I sure will!!!” and for the first time since my grandma went to Heaven I found myself excited about making bon bons again, and I was truly looking forward to it.
So this past Saturday, my mom came over and we made bon bons. When my mom and aunt were cleaning out my grandma’s house this past summer, my mom asked me if there was anything that I wanted. I thought about it for a minute and told her that I wanted all the items that my grandma and I used to make bon bons. Now these are not new things. We had used them for thirty years and they were not new when we started using them, but those items held so many memories for me and I knew when the time came for me to make bon bons again, I would want to use the same things that we had always used. As silly as it sounds, it just would not be the same without using them. So Jeff and I went to my grandma’s house, and I found all the things we had used and brought them home. When my mom came to make bon bons, I got those items out of the cabinet and we used them.
As we were making bon bons, we talked about life. We talk about my grandma and things that she had done and said. It was a lot of fun, and we were not sad while we were doing it. I think we were both happy to know that the tradition was continuing. It felt right and natural to me. It was different because I was not doing it with my grandma, but it felt like it was the right thing to do. I remember one of the last things my grandma said to my mom was “The world keeps turning.” My grandma has suffered enough loss in her life that she knew that life goes on. She wanted my mom to remember that and I know that she wants me to remember it too. Life does go on. It doesn’t diminish the importance of the person’s life who is no longer with us. In fact, I think it gives their life more meaning for us to pick up the pieces and move on.
We should never stop remembering the people we have lost and we should never stop telling their stories, but we should continue to live. I feel like in some small way my mom and I did that. Life has changed for us both, but we decided to change with it and make a new tradition. I think my grandma would be pleased. I truly believe she was with us that day, and I know she was smiling. As my mom was leaving she said something that really stuck with me. She said, “It is funny how something that starts out as something little can turn into something so big that has such great meaning.” When she said that I was reminded of the quote by Laura Ingalls Wilder that says, “I am beginning to learn that it is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all.” How true that statement really is. Often in life it is the things that have the humblest of beginnings that turn out to be the important things that guide our lives and bring us the greatest sense of peace and PEACE MATTERS!
If you would like to make bon bons, here is the recipe:
Grandma Ruth’s Bon Bons
4 cups of graham cracker crumbs
1 cup of coconut flakes
1 cup of creamy peanut butter
2 sticks of melted butter
4 cups of powdered sugar
1 cup of chopped pecans
2 tablespoons of vanilla
1 slab of paraffin
2 twelve-ounce bags of chocolate chips (semi-sweet)
Mix ingredients together in a large bowl. If mixture is too dry, add more butter or peanut butter. If mixture is too moist, add more graham cracker crumbs or powdered sugar. Form mixture into balls and place them on wax paper.
Melt paraffin and chocolate chips together in a double boiler. When the mixture is melted, dip the balls in the chocolate. Place the bon bons on wax paper while the chocolate hardens.
I would highly encourage you to start a tradition with someone you love this year. It could be that it is exactly what you both need and turn out to be a tradition that you will both look back on fondly in the years to come.