“Autumn … the year’s last, loveliest smile.” — William Cullen Bryant, American poet
No other season captures the anticipation, splendor and beauty like autumn.
Fall personifies bonfire gatherings, apple cider, festive arrangements, pumpkin spice and homemade chili.
One definition of autumn is symbolic of plenty, ripening, harvest, and abundance. At the same time, it is a symbol of decay, decline, old age and even death, with associations of things being past their prime. Yet this season gave birth to my sainted mother, Willie Mae Gordon Hopson.
My mother was the queen of great soups and chili. During the autumn season, I would shadow her in the kitchen and watch her create her soup and chili magic. She was a faithful donor to the annual “Soup for the Soul Fundraiser.” I remember she would prepare crockpots of chili and soups for New Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church. She would call Pastor Cleveland Thomas, Sr. and ask him to pick up her creations. She once told him, now walk into Carver Center and act like you’ve been cooking since early morning.
In February 2020, Sherry Cannon invited me to be a participant in her Annual Soup for the Soul fundraiser. That year Mom was too ill to participate. She was lying in a hospital bed, and things were not going well for her. I went to visit her. I told her I was thinking about dropping out because I needed to be with her. She looked at me and said, no baby, I want you to stay in the competition. Who knows, you might place or win. I said, no way, Mom, I’m not you. I’m a novice! Her glassy eyes said to me, I believe in you. That settled it.
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose.”
While at Carver Center, I remember standing at my station, trying my best to be social and smile at everyone. In all truth, I felt as if my world was imploding. I kept saying to myself, I shouldn’t be here. I needed to be at the hospital with mom, but I couldn’t escape her photogenic smile and her instructions for me to stay. I didn’t know that the next morning she would be gone. That year I did not place or win. I asked God, how is this working for my good? The answer would come two autumns later.
“The 2022 Pentecostal Church of Jesus Christ Annual Chili Cookoff”
My daughter Marcia asked me to enter our PCJC Annual Chili Cookoff. I was somewhat reluctant because I did not want to trigger memories of the 2020 cookoff. I eventually agreed to enter the contest in honor of Mom. I used my mother’s chili base and, from there created my notorious “Sin-Killin” recipe. Winning was not at the forefront of my mind. God had granted me an opportunity to trust him again for my healing. As my name was announced, I broke out in dance because there was no more pain and tears, only joy for this “comeback” kid.
Mom, I dedicate this “W” to you. You are the real winner. I can still hear your voice, not too much salt, and watch your texture. Your flavor and presentation is everything. Remember to always make your food look pretty!
On October 31, 2022, I imagine our mother peeped over the balcony of Heaven and said That’s my girl; I told ya so!
Thanks Mom you will always be my “Autumn … the year’s last, loveliest smile.”