Coleen Brooks

Coleen Brooks, a community columnist. 

My friend Joni Harbin wrote about being the bacon in someone’s life because bacon makes everything better. This gave me an idea of what to write. 

Take my Grandma and Grandpa Colligan, my mother’s parents. Oh, they were great people.  My grandpa was steeped in the Irish traditions of his ancestors and actually named my sister and me. I mean, think about it … Maureen (my sister) and Coleen (me). How Irish can you get? He had one brown eye and one blue eye and I can remember staring at him in wonder. He also made a joke about the three hairs he had left on the top of his head. He was a red-head and I do remember those three hairs!

My grandmother called him “Mike.” His name was John Peter Joseph Colligan. Where Mike came from, I have no idea. She adored him and he her. They were a tiny couple. She didn’t reach five feet and Grandpa was about 5 feet 5 inches. They’d dance together and laugh together. He called her his “little limey” because she was from England. I adored them. When I think of them, their memory brings me happiness. They were bacon in my life.

I remember my Great Grandma Maples … Lanie Maples to be exact. I loved her so much. She has been an influence on me all my life even though she passed away when I was young. She’d wear her hair in a bun on the top of her head. When my hair is long, I wear it the same way. She taught me how to take my fingers and wrangle them one on top of the other. You might not be able to picture this, but you take the little finger and put it on top of the ring finger, the ring finger on top of the middle finger and so on. That was pretty neat when I was a kid. But the main thing that she taught me has stayed with me forever. She taught me to love brown sugar biscuits.

I remember the first time she fixed me one. It was in her daughter’s kitchen, my Grandma Emert. She split a biscuit right out of the wood stove oven, put fresh made butter inside and right as the butter started to melt, she sprinkled some brown sugar inside and closed biscuit tight. After a short time, she handed me that biscuit and said, “Now smarty britches (I don’t know why she called me that), here’s something that you will love. Goodness! She was right. I eat brown sugar biscuits to this day and will until I can’t anymore. Someone told me once that this was poor man’s maple syrup. All I know is that it is delicious. When I think of her, I think of the sparkle in her big brown eyes, her giggle, and those brown sugar biscuits. She was the bacon in my life, country ham, and biscuits with brown sugar and butter melted together.

My Aunt Eunice was the best cook in the world. She could whip up a meal in no time flat. People from all over the world knew her and my Uncle Orie. The lived in the old home place at the foothills of the Smoky Mountains. They’d make molasses at the Old Timer’s Day Festival at Cade’s Cove. Aunt Eunice would dress in the costume of days gone by with her bonnet always in place.

She had the sweetest face and never met a stranger. She canned her own tenderloin and it was so good on a biscuit with gravy that you almost felt like you had died and gone to heaven when you ate it. She was the bacon in my life along with her tenderloin.

 And finally, a few words about my dad. He was tall and movie star handsome. He had this huge laugh that filled a room and then some. A retired Air Force officer who had a second career working for the Post Office, he was a talented musician who could play any instrument known to man from horns, to pianos, banjos, fiddles, anything, but his instrument of choice was his four string tenor guitar. He could make that guitar almost dance on its own. The sound was unique.

He loved my mama. He called her a “cute little thing” even after they had been married over 60 years. When I was a teenager, he’d sometimes chase her around the rose bushes. I remember thinking that it was so silly for people that age to act like that. Now I know better. I know how much fun they had together, how much they loved each other.

He always was there for me when I needed him. He was so wise, giving, and strong. He was the bacon, country ham, brown sugar biscuits, and grits in my life. Not the tenderloin, though. That was all Aunt Eunice’s.

I hope I can be the bacon in people’s lives, too. And maybe a little more.