I had been planning this week’s column in my head for quite a while, but then, as often happens, life got in the way.  For just over a month now, I have been getting reports on my cousin Jimmy and his health issues.  Then, on Friday evening, I learned that Jimmy will never have physical problems again.  The text I received informed me that “Jimmy just went home.”

James William Ogden was a special soul, loved by oh, so many people.  He turned 68 years old in mid-January; however, his mental age was much younger.  He was never able to care for himself, although he did have quite a list of things he could do.  Jimmy was always a part of my life since he was born three years before me.  There were some in the extended family that thought his parents should institutionalize him, but they chose to be his caregivers until they departed this life.  Even then, provision was made for Jimmy’s welfare.

The fourth child of my Aunt Betsy (Dad’s sister) and Uncle Bill, Jimmy was their first boy; his younger brother Tim is five months older than me.  I once asked Aunt Betsy if they knew why Jimmy turned out the way he did.  The only answer that anyone came up with was that she had contracted the measles during her pregnancy, and the disease affected her developing baby.

Jimmy was a child living in a man’s body, yet there were times he showed remarkable insight.  He enjoyed being able to make people laugh.  Simple things pleased him; it didn’t take a lot to make him happy.  Although he did have downtimes when he would be very quiet, I remember the “up” times more vividly.  Jimmy liked to talk, and sometimes we called him “Jabber-jaws,” which he thought to be hilarious.

One place Jimmy knew well was church.  He rarely missed a Sunday, especially when living with his parents.  He could sing almost every song in the hymnal (at least the ones his congregation knew).  During my high school years, we attended the same church.  Every once in a while, our Sunday evening service consisted of a sing-along; people could choose their favorites, and the pianist would play them as we joined in with our voices.  Jimmy’s selection was frequently “Church in the Wildwood.”  The chorus began with the men singing, “O come, come, come,” then the women joined in for the remainder.  Jimmy loved the “come, come, come” part so much that he would keep chanting it while the rest of us went on with the song.  He went to Sunday School with preschool-age children, even when he was an “adult,” enjoying the lessons even though he had heard them over and over.

Jimmy loved iced tea; I couldn’t even begin to guess how many gallons of it he drank through the years.  There was a season of his life that he would talk on and on about having crocodiles in his tea, only to be reassured that there were not.  He also loved potato chips.  In my mind, I can hear his footsteps coming up behind me, and then his voice declaring, “I like potato chips.  Do you like potato chips?” 

As I sit here thinking about my many memories of my cousin Jimmy, I can’t help but recall the time my family and I went to Tennessee for Aunt Betsy’s funeral.  Jimmy requested that I sit beside him while we were eating.  He would suddenly burst into tears, and ask, “Sara, why did God take my momma?  I need my momma.”  I don’t recall my answers to him during his broken-hearted moments, but I do know that my heart was breaking as well. 

Jimmy learned to get along without first one parent and then the other.  However, his siblings have done a wonderful job of taking care of him ever since.    Now they will have to get along without Jimmy, who is safe in the care of the Jesus he loved so much.  His momma was probably next in line to welcome him home.

The story in my column may have changed, but the recipe subject did not.  I cannot let February slip by without mentioning National Cherry Month!  I had lined up several new recipes to try; however, time and circumstances changed that.  I only managed to make one of them.  But I am never at a loss when it comes to using cherries.  The Cherry-Almond Drops looked as good as they tasted.  The other recipes may be repeats, yet they have CHERRIES in them.  What else can I say?  I like cherries!  Do you like cherries?

Cherry-Almond Drops

2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup butter or margarine, softened

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon almond extract

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

2 eggs

1-1/2 cups slivered almonds, toasted and broken up

1/2 cup maraschino cherries, drained and chopped

Combine flour, salt, and soda; set aside.

Combine butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl; cream until light and fluffy.  Stir in flavorings.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add dry ingredients, mixing well.  Stir in almonds and cherries.

Drop batter by teaspoonfuls onto lightly greased cookie sheets.  Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes, or until lightly browned.  Cool on wire racks.  Yield: 5 to 6 dozen.

Cherry-Tarragon Chicken Salad

1 cup fresh orange juice

1/2 cup dried cherries, snipped into smaller pieces

4 cups chopped cooked chicken

1/3 cup mayonnaise (may use light mayo)

1/4 cup sour cream (may use reduced fat)

2 teaspoons fresh tarragon (may use 1 teaspoon dried)

1 teaspoon grated orange zest

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

2 celery ribs, finely chopped


Bring juice and cherries to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.  Note: if using dried tarragon, add it to the juice and cherries at this point.  Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, 10 to 12 minutes or until liquid is reduced to 1/4 cup.  Remove from heat and cool slightly.  Pour mixture into large bowl; stir in chicken and remaining ingredients except crackers, tossing to coat.  Cover and chill at least 2 hours.  Serve with crackers.

Cheery Cherry Fruit Salad

1 can cherry pie filling (regular or light)

2 or 3 bananas, sliced or cut into small chunks

1 can mandarin oranges, drained

1 can pineapple tidbits or chunks, drained

1 (8-ounce) container whipped topping, thawed

For this recipe, the main ingredient needed is the cherry pie filling.  I use at least 2 other fruits.  Fresh orange segments may be substituted for the mandarin oranges.  Sometimes I add the whipped topping and sometimes I do not.  Just blend all the ingredients you choose, and any others you might want to add, together and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.