Just when the world seems like a scary place . . .

Dear friends,

If you spent your weekend anywhere but inside a cave, you might have been tempted  to conclude our world is a scary place. A place where violence is routine, nothing is sacred, and erring on the side of the angels is a laughably quaint notion.

I spent part of my weekend in that place, then I switched off the television and went looking for something hopeful. Something worth sharing,

And guess what I found in my email inbox?

I found a message from a reader who I’ve known most of my life. Juanita is the mother of a classmate and a former teacher of mine. We both hail from the little place I call “Mayberry,” my Oklahoma hometown that means so much to so many people I know and love.

Juanita left Mayberry a few years ago to live with her son in Texas, but over the weekend, she exchanged emails with a woman named Agnes who still lives in our hometown. Agnes is 97, lives by herself in a home just around the corner from the one I lived in, and still throws dinner parties. (My kind of lady!)

Agnes sent Juanita two recipes for dishes she planned to serve Saturday night — one for barbeque meatballs and one for bean salad. She attributed the meatball recipe to a “Mayberry First Baptist Church Cookbook” published in 1933. And she attributed the bean salad recipe to “Marie C,” my beloved namesake Gram who died 20 years ago.

Juanita forwarded the email to me, noting that if I didn’t already have my grandmother’s recipe, she thought I should have.

Lord have mercy — do I remember my grandmother’s bean salad! She made it for most holiday meals, many summer suppers, and I believe she even served it with canapes at the bridge and canasta parties she frequently hosted and that I thought — at the discerning age of 6 or 7 — were the height of chic entertaining.

I don’t have a single recipe of my Gram’s, so the email was like treasure to me. Just reading the recipe  — I could imagine seeing the salad in the green Frankoma Pottery serving bowl my Gram favored, and I instantly recalled its sweet-tart flavor.

It was an email — and a sweet gesture — that brought tears to my eyes and reminded me the world is really small, and most often kind, even when we might think otherwise.

With gratitude {for old friends, kindnesses from the heart, and memories of home},

J-M, who only wishes she could fry chicken and make lemon meringue pie like Marie

PS: If you’ve never made an old-fashioned bean salad, give my Gram’s a try.

Marie C’s Bean Salad

1 can cut green beans

1 can “shoepeg” corn

1 can green peas

1 small jar pimentoes

1 cup chopped celery

1 cup finely chopped purple onion

1 cup white vinegar

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup vegetable oil

Drain beans, corn, peas and pimentos. Toss together with celery and onion in a mixing bowl. Add sugar, vinegar and vegetable oil together in a small saucepan and heat to boiling to melt sugar. Let cool slightly then toss thoroughly with the vegetables. Chill before serving.