Six words I'll miss -- "Sit down, girl. Tell me somethin'."
That phrase would be coupled with a hearty chuckle and a tap on the table by the nearest chair. No one could ever resist that request by Christine Whitmore, known as "Tine" by family and close friends. She was an institution in the communities of Suthards and Earlington.
Don't think because she offered the invitation for you to "tell her something" that you really got the chance. Almost as soon as your butt hit the chair, she had a question in mind for you. "Girl, you remember that old man who used to come to the store in overalls? Or polka-dotted shirt? Or drove a rickety wagon with one mule? He mita been some of yore kin? Remember him?"
If you were near enough to her, she'd raise her hand to pat you on your wrist at her questions. "Uh. Who?" You never knew at first the individual she'd chosen from the past. While you mulled over her strange, disjointed hints, she'll chuckle once more and lean over again to tap your arm. "Aw, you know. You recollect that old man?" She usually wouldn't remember his/her name either for a while. Instead, she'd give you a running list of the spouse, some of the children, where he lived (by the railroad, Suthards Road, near by an old house which hadn't existed for decades). She'd laugh and continue until she found a name in her amazing memory that you recognized and commence to expound on stories she remembered for five or ten minutes. "You 'member him now, don't you, Girl?" If you didn't nod or agree, you just knew she was going to continue until you did.
"Tine" (pronounced "teen") made the rounds of local events that served food. She usually produced some of her famous, delicious brownies. She was usually escorted by a cousin, her tall-lanky farmer neighbor Hugh Wayne Offutt. When Hugh showed up at E'ton or White Plains programs, many of us leaned over to check at his back for who he called "old woman." "Where's Christine?" we'd ask. "Aw, the old woman couldn't make it."
If we asked, she had an excuse for the few times she was missing. If it was a Legion Auxiliary, it was "Somebody mite ask me to do something." If it was a Christian Church social, she'd quip something about the preacher "mite get wore out around so many sinners." One of her favorite monthly events was Spencer Brewer's White Plains Sr. Citizens' socials. After lunch, she'd ask those at her table, "Did you git a brownie?" She'd grin if we answered "Nope, they went quick." "Aw, shucks," she'd shake her head at us. "That's too bad."
Tine would have been 89 this past Thursday. On that day she was silent, but her presence was overwhelming in what she referred to as "the funeral parlor." It was strange sitting near the back seeing her sister "Tootsie," who many thought was her twin, sitting at the front. Tine's brother Mac preached her service. I say "preached" because that's what he did for almost half an hour before he belted out what he pronounced as Tine's favorite hymn "Beulah Land" in bluegrass style. I enjoyed listening to his sermon with thoughts obviously straight from his heart. He told us he'd been preaching for over 50 years and that he'd miss his sister. He listed their siblings who had passed on before.
My only distraction was looking from him to Christina's head propped on her fancy satin pillow. I kept expecting her to quip, "Git on with it, Son." Although she sometimes called us by our given names, it was usually simply "Girl" or "Son." However, that Thursday Christine's vibrant spirit was elsewhere. Her heart and lungs had "played out" along with her many stories.
She celebrated her birthday elsewhere. I'm sure she arrived in that City with the wide smile we remember and with at least one more story to tell there in her Beulah Land. Of course, a huge meal was served after graveside services in her honor. I could almost hear "Tine" dragging up the end of the line and tugging on Hugh Wayne's elbow. "Hugh. Ain't that my nephew over there?" She'd probably bend over, looking a bit more scrunched than usual to peer at what was happening. "Whatcha you reckon that paper is he's handin'out?" She'd surely giggle and push Hugh toward the line, "Hurry up, Hugh. Git me a copy afore they're all gone." "Aww, come on now, Tine. You know it's yore brownies recipe. Whatcha need it for now?" She'd smile that mischievous smile. "You never know, Son. You just never know."
Tine's Fudge Brownies
2/3 c plain flour
1 c sugar
¼ t salt
2 beaten eggs
½ t baking powder
2 squares melted unsweet chocolate
1 c pecans
1 stick butter
1 t. vanilla
Sift flour, salt, b. powder together. Set aside. Melt butter & chocolate squares. Add to butter mixture & cream together: sugar, eggs, vanilla. Add pecans. Bake in 9" pan coated with butter at 350 for 23 minutes. Let brownies cool completely before adding icing. So, wait a bit before making icing.
Tine's Brownies' Icing
1 ½ c sugar
¾ c half & half
1/3 c cocoa
½ stick butter
¼ t salt
1 t vanilla
Mix all ingredients but vanilla & melted butter. Bring to a rolling boil. Boil for 3 ½ minutes, stirring constantly. Pour over cooled brownies. Add 16 pecans before the icing gets hard--one pecan to each brownie. ("Tine" insisted on "real" vanilla, no imitation. Fudge brownies were an art with her, like her storytelling.)
For Christine-- so many of us miss you, your chuckle and amazing fudge brownies. A special thanks to the family for her recipe. We'll see ya again, girl… one day! And I'll bet you'll have new stories for us about the city "where all things are new."