Waynesburg is 316 acres in the mid-east of Ohio, south from Akron. I remember very little about it in actuality. I remember it feeling small. But, not in a compressed sort of way. In a freeing way. It was like traveling back in time.
I don’t think I ever went anywhere other than my grandparents house on Welker Street. They had a gravel path, a big kind of wild, kind of kept yard. They had the best screened in porch I’ve ever been on.
My dad and his brothers grew up there. They went to Sandy Valley High School. They were in marching bands. They worked on cars. My grandpa dug out his own basement.
It’s a place that pulls at me sometimes. A place I’m desperate to visit again. While my deep American roots are firmly planted in West Virginia, the history I touched and smelled – the bed I slept in that dad once slept in – that was all in Waynesburg.
Sometimes I look up the house up on google maps. I try with all my might to pull back the handful of precious memories I have.
Playing Battleship with my cousin Chris.
Prancing around on the porch with Morgan and Megan.
I haven’t had the chance for a ‘no reason’ vacation nearly all of my adult life. But when I do, I know I’ll head there. I know I’ll find the places Dad talked about with his signature blend of seriousness and joy. His animated reserved excitement.
He loved his home.
He loved his family.
He loved his brothers – they were his very best friends.
When I saw them visit, all together – man. I could have watched them talk for hours. They brought each other to life.
Now? It’s a rare occurance to hear from my Radcliff family. Not for any particular reason – just time and distance, I think.
But I find it so important to stay connected to that part of me. That ancestral history that lives in me wants just as much to be expressed as my mom’s side.
It’ll probably still be a while before I’m able to get back there. But I know when I go I’ll use a paper map – in honor of Dad who would probably HATE the fact that I don’t have to memorize the way to anywhere anymore. And when I know I’m close I’ll push the gas pedal down a little more than I ought to – because Dad’s foot always turned to led when he knew he was almost home.
And I’ll drive by – maybe I’ll even dig up the courage to knock and explain myself. Ask if the people who live there now mind if I take a picture or two.
I’ll try to find the hill Dad raced his brother Rod down during a newspaper route. I’ll try to find the field he marched on, Trombone in hand. I’ll see what his high school theatre looks like now.
But in the meantime, sometimes, I’ll pull out one of Grandma Radcliff’s recipes. Like these oatmeal cookies. And I’ll make them. And I’ll smile at how much my son and husband love them. And I’ll find incalculable joy that my daughter shouts ‘cookie cookie cookie mmm” at the recipe her namesake wrote down.
And it’ll be enough.
Waynesburg Oatmeal Cookies
Makes: 5 dozen cookies
- 3/4 C shortening
- 1 C brown sugar, packed
- 1/2 C sugar
- 1 egg
- 1/4 C water
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 C sifted flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 3 C uncooked rolled oats
- Stand mixer
- Various measuring cups and spoons
- Preheat your oven to 350 F/180 C/Gas Mark 4.
- Put shortening, brown sugar, sugar, egg, water, and vanilla in the bowl of your stand mixer. Beat thoroughly at a medium speed until fully incorporated and fluffy.
- Sift the flour, salt, and baking soda. Slowly add and incorporate into wet mixture, mixing well. Blend in oats evenly.
- I recommend chilling the dough for around an hour or so – it will make removing the done cookies easier at the end.
- Drop by teaspoons onto a well-greased baking sheet. Bake 12 to 15 minutes.
- Careful not to overbake. Remove from the pan immediately with a metal spatula.
- Allow to cool on a wire rack.