Cooking up Love: The Graduation Gift I Still Use 20 Years Later

When I graduated high school almost 20 years ago, I received a gift that I still regularly use.  It was a book that the mom of my hometown BFF had filled with all the recipes she made us growing up. When I received this gift at 18, I thought it was just a recipe book.  Now that I’m a mom myself, I realize it was a book filled with so much more. 

Mrs. Lynda was the mom of my childhood best friend Katie.  Her home was our hub growing up.  It was also an open door around there, and if you entered her house, she would no doubt have something delicious to feed you (whether Katie was there or not!) 

And, Mrs. Lynda did a lot more than just feed you. She listened to you.  She laughed with you.  She made you feel so unbelievably loved and valued. No matter what!

She would cook for us to celebrate our victories…a game won, a college acceptance letter, or a birthday. She would also cook for us when we suffered the inevitable teenage heartache or blunder. 

She would cook a big breakfast for us after prom or a pig roast and all the fixings to celebrate our graduation. She served us many an after church Sunday lunch. And would do a low country boil so we could all have a big group date night with our high school boyfriends. 

So much of my coming of age story…the good, the bad, and the ugly…was hashed out in her kitchen. And she always gave me a soft place to land…no matter what. And I’m pretty sure that having that soft place to land kept me out of a lot of trouble growing up! 

 Photo by Yaroslav Shuraev from Pexels

I am now a mom myself. And, I like to think of my house like Mrs. Lynda’s home…an open door where you can always find a warm meal and some love. We host regular gatherings at our house, and I have many a time opened that cookbook with Mrs. Lynda’s handwritten recipes and served my kids, their friends, and their parents one of Mrs. Lynda’s famous recipes. 

I have watched over the last few years as a community has been formed over this food and these gatherings. A community where I hope people feel not only fed, but listened to, valued, and loved.

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

I graduated high school and left my hometown in Georgia 20 years ago. But, I’m so fortunate that I still get to visit a few times a year. For the past 20 years, no matter what stage I have been in, I still always pull into Mrs. Lynda’s driveway, knock on her door, and am greeted with so much love and so much hospitality. And now not only do I get to experience it, but I also get to take my twin boys with me!

When I was 18, I thought this was a book of recipes. I now see it’s a book about how to love. It is my deepest hope that one day my sons’ friends feel the same way about my home as I always feel about hers. And, I hope 30 years from now, they will pull in my driveway, knock on my door, bring their babies into my home, and feel as welcome then as they do right now!

Thank you Mrs. Lynda for teaching me how to cook a little better and love a little bigger. I’m passing it on to a whole new crop of kids 9 hours away here in New Orleans!

Catherine Karas
Catherine followed her college sweetheart (and now wife) Claire to New Orleans after they both graduated from the University of Georgia. She is a twin mom, a stay at home mom, a boy mom, a Disney mom, and a 2 mom family mom...just to name a few. She throws a mean toddler play date and loves to host small humans in her home for themed out events! She is often planning her next great family adventure, and she is never scared to pack her twins up for a trip solo! Her parenting mantra is "embrace the chaos", and there is plenty of that when raising twin boys! You can follow her family adventures on instagram @krewedekaras


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