Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Muffins

August 8, 2010

A few weeks ago, my mother called in the middle of the day. This is an unusual phenomenon; we speak most days at 4pm sharp (keep the anal-retentive remarks to yourselves, thank you very much). When Mama calls during the day it means one of two things: good gossip or bad news.

“Who’s dead?” I ask.

She laughs. “Bingo. Henry Vermillion.”

“Get out. I thought that coot would outlive us all.”

“He damn near did. He was pushing 100.”

“Are they burying him with a box of Uncle Sam cereal?” I ask.

“Oh, you’re rotten,” she says…but she’s chuckling.

Author’s note: I realize that this conversation makes us sound sort of like assholes, but bear with me. There’s some backstory here.


“Gramma Rhetta’s getting married,” my mother says, scanning a letter.

“Again?” I look up from the pages of Silas Marner (aside: boring-ass high school reading; if you haven’t read it, you aren’t missing anything). “Isn’t this like, #4 or something?”

“I think technically it’s three,” Mama says. “She married Bill twice.”

“Oh yeah.  Bill the Boozer.”

Mama shoots me a look. “Husband #1 was a boozer, too.”  Husband #1, John, was her father.

“Maybe this one won’t be a drinker.” I toss the book aside for good. “How’d she meet this one, anyways? Gramma’s almost eighty. What’s she doing?  Trolling for boyfriends at bingo?”

“Another old beau,” Mama says, smiling.

“Holy crap! What kinda firecracker was she in college? All these old boyfriends keep tracking her down, like, 50 years later.” I shake my head. “Gramma’s sex life is way more rockin’ than mine.”  This earns me a scowl from Mama.

I roll my eyes. “I’m not having sex. I can’t even get kissed.”


“It’s not good, it sucks…Hey, did this one think Gramma was dead, too?”

**Backstory to Backstory:**

While married to husband #1, Gramma Rhetta, tiring of the constant letters in the mail from her alma matter (begging for contributions), took the latest correspondence, scrawled “Deceased” over her name in red pen, and returned to sender. She never got hassled for money again; however, many years later, when Bill the Boozer contacted the college, searching for his lost love, he was told that she’d passed away. Bill was so upset by this news that he chose denial and continued to search for her. I’m not sure what this says about Bill the Boozer, but it’s a testament to tenacity, I’ll give him that.

**Back to just the original Backstory**

A few weeks later, Gramma Rhetta announces that she’s bringing her betrothed to the Rocky Mountains to meet us.

“Man, she moves fast,” I say. “Then again, if you’re pushing eighty, you don’t really have time to dawdle, do you?”

This earns me the stern eyebrows.

Gramma says that they’ll be arriving early in the morning, and Mama, ever the hostess, asks what Henry likes for breakfast.

“Oh,” Gramma trills giddily into the phone, “Henry is easy. He eats everything.”

Mama and I proceed to bake three kinds of muffins, assemble a fruit plate and grind fresh coffee beans (again, cut it with the anal-retentive remarks, yo).

When the blue Oldsmobile stops in front of the house, Mama and I stand together, united in trepidation.

Gramma Rhetta whirls out of the driver’s seat, clad in a pink skirt and eyelet blouse, her lipstick a crimson slash of joy across her face.

“What the Hell is she wearing?” I hiss under my breath. “Makeup? Pink?  And ruffles!” I stand aghast. “She’s never worn a ruffle in her life.”

“Well, maybe once or twice at a wedding,” Mama says, equally baffled. This is the woman who defiantly wore trousers every day, far before Katharine Hepburn made them fashionable.

“Mother, what are you doing driving that thing?” Mama calls out, rushing to the car to assist Gramma, who is wrestling two heavy suitcases out of the trunk. Henry is still sitting in the car.

“Oh, Henry doesn’t care for driving,” she says airily. “He says he’d rather occupy his mind with greater tasks.” She closes the trunk and opens Henry’s door for him with a flourish.

“And this,” Gramma says, gesturing grandly, “is Henry Vermillion.”

With all of that pomp and circumstance, I’m expecting Rhett Butler, clad in a white suit, to exit the Oldsmobile.

What emerges is a short, stout, bespectacled old fart. “That woman drives like she’s got lead in her foot,” he says, neglecting Mama’s outstretched hand. He also neglects to help carry in the suitcases.

“Poor Henry is so tired from the drive,” Gramma clucks, patting his hand. “He’ll feel so much better after a little food.”

We lead them into the dining room, where baskets of muffins and fruit and coffee sit on the table.

“We made blueberry, lemon-poppyseed, and chocolate chip muffins,” Mama says, smiling. “We didn’t know what kind Henry would like, so we stacked the deck.”

“They look wonderful!” Gramma says. “I’m absolutely ravenous.”

“That woman is always hungry,” Henry says. “Well, either that or sleepy.” He scans the spread on the table. “I’ll be back,” he says abruptly, and leaves the room.

Mama and Gramma and I remain standing for a minute, unsure what to do. “Isn’t he wonderful?” Gramma gushes. She winks at me. “Henry was my very first love.”

We sit and wait for Henry’s return. I pass baskets of muffins around. “I like your outfit.”

Gramma blushes a little. “Henry likes women in feminine things.”

Henry returns clutching a large box of Uncle Sam bran cereal, formerly stashed in the backseat of the Olds. “I’ll need a bowl,” he says.  Gramma leaps to her feet.

We eat our breakfast in relative silence, except when Henry asks my mother if she has any prunes–because, he says, staring at the large fruit platter as if there’s a turd on it– “I can’t eat any of this.”

Future visits with Henry proved to be  more of the same.


“Henry,” Mama calls out, while preparing the evening meal, “what kind of vegetable would you like with dinner: green beans, salad or broccoli?”

“Well, I guess I’ll take the green beans…as long as you don’t cook them the same way you did last time.”


“Henry, would you like turkey on your sandwich or ham?”

Henry walks in with a bowl of 6 oranges. “I’d rather eat these. Your sandwiches give me gas.”


“Dear, can I talk to you?” Gramma asks, taking my mother aside.

“Of course,” Mama says, glancing at the clock. “We have a half an hour before our dinner reservation.”

“Oh, this won’t take long dear,” Gramma says. “It’s just that, well…do you mind changing before we go out? Henry doesn’t like that dress you’re wearing.”


The silver lining to the story is that we only had to endure Henry Vermillion for a few brief years. The sad chapter to that, of course, is that Gramma Rhetta died first.  Still, her final years with that self-important goat were happy ones; she considered herself lucky to snag him. That was our Henrietta for you–excellent judge of horseflesh, terrible judge of gentlemen.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Muffins

makes one dozen

1 cup boiling water

2/3 cup oatmeal (not instant)

2 tablespoons butter, cut into small cubes

1 1/2 cups flour

2 tablespoons plain or vanilla yogurt

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup chocolate chips

2 eggs, beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease muffin tin. In a small bowl, mix boiling water, oats and butter.  Set aside and let stand for 20 minutes. In a large bowl mix flour, sugar, baking powder, soda, salt and cinnamon. Add chocolate chips. Beat eggs, vanilla and yogurt into oatmeal. Stir into flour mixture until just moistened. Bake 20 minutes.

approximately 135 calories per muffin

PS: If you’re wondering how BlogHer went, I encourage you to check out many of the lovely ladies in my blogroll. I’ll be happy to answer any questions you have about it via email, but I don’t think I’ll be blogging my experience. You know those old Looney Tunes cartoons where a giant anvil falls out of the sky and crushes Wile E. Coyote? Yeah. I’m sorta feeling like that. Glad I went. Glad to be back to my quiet life. Thanks for reading; I’ve missed you.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Jenna September 13, 2010 at 9:17 am

I’m so glad I clicked the link and read the backstory . . . wow. Wow. Wow. Thankfully I can laugh at liberty since I’m the only one in the office today.


Cheryle July 7, 2012 at 7:14 pm

I just could not depart your website before suggesting that I really loved the usual info an individual supply for your visitors? Is going to be again frequently to inspect new posts


lestur July 9, 2012 at 1:43 am

My brother recommended I might like this web site. He was entirely right. This put up truly made my day. You cann’t believe simply how much time I had spent for this info! Thanks!


Web Directory July 12, 2012 at 7:09 pm

SMZHNb Really appreciate you sharing this article.Thanks Again. Really Cool.


Zebra Zoologist July 16, 2012 at 4:36 pm

nice page you should write a weekly newsletter :)


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: