Thursday, September 24, 2009

White Trash Motherlode: Banana Bread

See this picture? Besides the painful/obvious evidence that this was the year that America fell in love with Dorothy Hamill and her wonky haircut, there's something else going on in that frame.

That's me, in the white blouse, trying incredibly hard to look brave. And if you look hard enough, it's evident that I'm sorta failing. This is my first day of 2nd grade, in a new state, at a new school, at an awkward time in the school calendar. It's hard enough to be new at the start of school, but when your family moves in the middle of the year, it sucks the big one. You aren't just the "new kid." You are the only "new kid." Translation: Dana is fresh meat.

My sister next to me? She's got a completely different look in her eye. My sister truly didn't mind moving as often as we did. She sort of thought it was exciting to get a fresh start, in a new place. By the end of the first week, she'd have made fast friends with several classmates and be out playing Kick the Can in the evenings.

Me, not so much. Not at all, actually. I didn't have her gift of gab, her tenacity, her ability to blend into a new landscape with ease.

You see, as much as Mama insisted growing up that I was a very brave girl, I wasn't. Most childhood pictures of me look like this:

And this:

New things, new people, new anything terrify me. Have since birth and alas, still do. I am a coward of the first water. In fact, the difficulty I had with the move mentioned above...Well, let's just say that when, several months later, we got transferred to Pittsburgh...Mama made Daddy get a new job.

A girl can only be broken so many times.

And no, if you look at that top picture again, that isn't a big black cockroach on my shirt. It's a pin. A pin in the shape of a porcupine, to be exact. A trinket that Mama pinned on my shoulder that first day of school, because it was a lucky porcupine. A porcupine that would keep me safe and okay and able to keep my shit together until I got home from school, wobbling and wrecked with anxiety.

She's a smart woman, my Mama.

But the lucky porcupine pin did not keep me safe. Nothing could. Because kids, even the little ones, can smell fear like nobody's business. And if a kid cowers and cries at the least provocation, it's pay dirt.

I was bullied relentlessly that year, but I still insisted on wearing that porcupine pin every day. Because Mama's don't lie and she said that thing was lucky, so it had to be true....maybe it was taking a little longer for the luck to kick in than I wanted, but I believed.

I believed so much that poor old "porky" got run through the washing machine a lot (my carelessness) and Mama had to stitch the poor dude back together constantly. By the end of the year, that pin was the most motley, moth-eaten thing you've ever seen.

But Mama kept mending it. To keep me safe. At least safe enough to wait for the bell, hit the door running and hi-tail it the 4 blocks home, where Mama was waiting, front door already open, with a fierce hug and a delicious snack.

Home was never sweeter.

Banana Bread*
makes 1 loaf

1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup butter, softened
3 large or 4 small over-ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups+2 tablespoons flour

Mix in order given and bake at 350 degrees for an hour. If desired, 1/2 cup nuts or mini-chocolate chips can be stirred in before baking. Best kept wrapped in foil and stored in the refrigerator.

*I know, right? A recipe from the White Trash MotherLode book that isn't revolting! This was my favorite baked treat, and Mama baked it religiously for me during tough times.

P.S. Thanks, Mama, for trying so hard to help me be brave. Alas, I'm 40 and still looking under the bed for monsters. But you did your best.


  1. Great post, KW. And I'm stoked about the recipe. I'm part White Trash, so I'm all good with that stuff.

  2. I heart you, KW. You're adorable and amazing. AND brave!

  3. Awww...this is such a sweet post. I was just like you at school. We moved about a fair bit when I was young and I was always rather awkward and not very good at making friends at first - I also suffered bullying. I think the porcupine pin becomes a symbol of faith and love in this instance. Faith that things will get better and that despite everything else, you have someone there who loves you and is behind you encouraging you to be brave. My mum was rather like that too. xxx

  4. I felt as though my childhood just flashed before my eyes. I can so relate.

    And I love banana bread!

  5. I just love reading your posts! Wonderful story, sounds a lot like when I grew up.

  6. Your mama sounds awesome and I'm sure you're a great mama like her! Keep it up!

  7. You are awesome. You're my new hero and I just think your blog is the sweetest!!

  8. Banana bread is a comfort food of the highest order! My mom always baked zucchini bread, but just the smell made everything right in the world. Loved this post, and think that you totally rock!

  9. This post is so sensitive, touching and a beautiful tribute to your Mama. I love the way you illustrated with pictures and a yummy recipe, to boot!

  10. I so understand how you feel. We moved on average 2 times a year or more and school was a nightmare of social anxiety for me.I still stress about it.

  11. Umm, can I borrow your mom? I love her!

  12. School can be a rough place! :0(

    Sorry you had to go through all of that! I moved all of the time when I was a kid. 5th grade was my worst year. I was chased, teased, punched, poked in the head with metal combs... It was horrid! Thank God I was a fast runner!

    I still have a little mouse pin that my mom gave me!

    Oh yes, I had that fabulous haircut too!

  13. Aw, so sweet :) Banana bread has always been a comfort to me...Love the retro pics ;)

  14. I am the "new kid" at a v. old age. When my daughter started school (she did/does fine), there were all these moms with older siblings in the school and they were a CLIQUE. Seven years later they still are. And MEAN/RUDE to all who are not in the clique. I am horrified, and feel like the new kid every time I have to go to school for something. I skipped all this when I was growing up, but it is HORRIBLE!

  15. I love my mom 's banana bread too. She would make them in soup cans so I could have an individual one without nuts, and it was so cool the slices were round. We never moved the whole time in a small house. Me and my two sisters shared the room on the second floor. Good and bad. I was extremely shy in school. It's so refreshing hearing your stories. I wish I could write like you.

  16. I love this post. Just beautiful, funny, angsty, all in one. I made a zucchini bread this weekend (which I failed to document), and seeing that the bananas on my kitchen counter look pitiful, I just might bake again tonight. Yum!

  17. Catherine,

    Isn't it horrifying when grown women act like that?

    I faced the same treatment when hubs and I moved a few hours north of Denver. Not one person welcomed me into the neighborhood. It was a horrible feeling. It also took me years to find anyone I connected with.

    Ever since then, I've always made a concerted effort to make newcomers feel welcome in our neighborhood.

    It's not you...I'm sure you know that...but still. What horrid old birds those women are.

  18. And Ungourmet, I forgot to add--5th grade was the WORST.

    Kids kept stealing my hat/mittens/coat and flushing them down the boy's bathroom toilet.


  19. This may sound weird, but I totally related to this post but didn't even know it until I had tears in my eyes as I reached the end. You rock, TKW! And so does your mom. And had I known you when we were kids, I am sure I would have been your friend!

  20. Gibs, I think you would have been my friend too. Hell, it's only 31 1/2 years too late...

    Lyndsey, I would love your mama's recipe for "banana bread in a can"--my girls would LOVE to have their own banana bread!! What a great idea!

  21. Jeez, I keep forgetting my train of thought...

    Eralda, I meant to say that I love the term "angsty"---definitely me.

  22. I have missed your posts!
    I have also been looking for a good banana bread recipe (something not many Australians have mastered) so thanks. It looks like I have some good reading ahead of me

  23. I made this bread last night and DH and I love it, Amanda doesn't do bananas one of the few foods she won't eat. Haley will try it this afternoon but is sure she will love it because it has bananas and chocolate chips.
    Great post about your mom, she is a jewel.

  24. You and your mom are amazing, TKW. I need to go read ck now because I'm all teary. This was a wonderful, wonderful post. I hope you share it with your mother in some fashion.

  25. I've always been afraid to attempt banana bread. Maybe it's an Australian thing like Camilla said? Perhaps we just don't do good banana bread?
    Wyatt (my 7yr old) and I made this yesterday. He was a bit sceptical about the 'mushed up' bananas so I was doubtful that he would even try the finished product.
    I think the smell of it baking brought him around though ;-) We had our first piece warm and spread with real butter. His little eyes actually rolled up in his head as he said, and I quote, 'I am in HEAVEN!'. After another piece he declared it to be his new favourite food, even better than a McDonalds sundae with extra chocolate. OMG! That's some high praise right there. His final verdict - Fantastically Awesomely Deliciously Good!
    I'm guessing we'll be making this regularly from now on. You are obviously the banana bread Queen and I bow down before you.

    BTW I think you lovely Mum looks like Julie Andrews in that photo.

  26. I'm so glad that Wyatt liked the bread! I love you, Leisa.

    And mama always got told she looked like old Jules when she was younger!!