Wisdom of the ages and brownie baking shall prevail

CANDACE COOKSEY FULTON Special to the Bulletin

We’re the most unlikely of friends. But friendship became our truce a little more than 13 years ago, when we stood side-by-side at the hospital nursery window, looking at a swaddled-in-pink baby girl with a furious cry and stick-out-black hair that we were never going to be able to tame.

The baby was my granddaughter, my first; her great-granddaughter, her fifth or sixth. I like to think God sent a special-forces army of two for that baby girl, to love her especially, protect her, teach her and help her.

God couldn’t have drafted a more diligent or dedicated pair, or, I’m afraid, a pair more different and seemingly incompatible than the two of us. We’ve adapted, MaMo and me, to most of what comes our way, each in our own way.

But the baby’s turned 13, and 13 is not easy. Not for the 13-year-old, not for the nearly 85-year-old and not for the 61-year-old.

Turns out, the untamable hair was the slightest of all challenges. MaMo knows people in the barrio (where she lives as the wise matriarch of a family I’ve come to believe must number in the several hundreds) who know people who wield powerful curling irons and withstand-the-wind mousses, who are called on the morning of a Quinceañera, when our Miss K is a member of the court and needs a cascade of curls. I’ve learned to keep a collection of elastic bands of various sizes in my purse, glove compartment, bathroom drawer, here and there, so for whatever sports practice or game we’re headed to, the hair can be pulled into a quick ponytail, braid or topknot and we’re good to go.

It all works out.

No the challenges are more — I don’t know — mercurial, hard to corral or stabilize, constant but unexpected.

“That phone,” MaMo said to me the other day when I stopped by to pick up our Miss K after she spent the night there. “I don’t like it that she is on it all the time, and I tell her, the next time you come we are going to bake brownies.”

“What did she say?” I asked, impressed with the brilliance of the plan. Why didn’t I think of that?

“Nothing,” MaMo said and shook her head.

“She’s not interested — just that phone.”

We both sigh. We are down, and we know it, but we are not out.

“MaMo said y’all are going to bake brownies,” I remark casually once we’re in the car, headed for soccer practice.

“Yeah, so,” she replies almost inaudibly, both thumbs typing and tapping in amazingly quick rhythm across her phone’s keyboard.

“So” I don’t go into all of my fears and concerns about her future, wrought by the aggravation of her present disinterest in life. I want her to choose reality over virtual.

It’s helped me — and her — that I can remember the anguish of being 13. “So” I’ve given her multiple attitude passes, sort of a payback to the world for my having been my brattiest self then. By the same token, in her own 13-year-old way, I think — repeat, “think” — Miss K has given me multiple passes for my not-cool-at-all missteps.

We’re at awkward ages. It’s as simple as that. We both know it about each other, but can’t understand it about ourselves.

Somehow, and maybe mostly because there were understanding elders in my path, the rough edges of the 13-year-old me smoothed. I forgave the world its shortcomings as I perceived them and evolved into a more involved life participant.

How I wish I could gift wrap that knowledge and give Miss K the good advice that I am so glad I got to know.

That is this: Look beyond you. Listen, look, feel and be. Be hopeful. Be helpful. Be patient. Be respectful. Be careful. Be grateful.

A 13th summer has its privileges, I may tell her in one of our here-to-there daily commutes. You can take a little bit of time to do nothing and appreciate that there’s nothing really to do. But you’ll be gladder if, in the process, you make good lasting memories with people who love you. Do things you can do when you’re young, because they won’t be as easy to do when you’re old. Learn to sew, bake or make something that for the rest of your life, you’ll enjoy sewing, baking or making.

But I know, that won’t translate. MaMo’s “less talk, more do” plan is spot on.

Put down the phone. Bake brownies together.

Candace Cooksey Fulton is a freelance writer, formerly of Brownwood, living now in San Angelo. She can be reached at