and this is why we are grateful for the invention of the gift card

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In 5th grade, I won the Chester County 4-H Annual Bread Baking Contest with a Banana Nut Bread recipe from my maternal grandmother. Both of my brothers went on the win the same contest a few years later, with the same recipe. My reward for this feat? The book pictured above. Who wouldn’t want this “pictorial panorama of southern decorative arts illustrating creative vitality in many media”? A fifth grader, that’s who.

It makes me laugh to know that I have kept this book around for more than thirty-five years. Now I primarily use it as a lap desk for my MacBook Pro. One of the endorsements on the back says it serves a two-fold purpose: “It gives Southerners a solid source for pride in their heritage and others a sound knowledge of the antiques and folk art that can be seen below the Mason-Dixon Line.” And lap desk makes three.

My favorite thing about the book is the signature on the bookplate on the inside cover. The Progressive Farmer Company, The Tennessee 4-H Foundation and The University of Tennessee Agricultural Extension Service all pulled together on this gift to the best ten-year old bread baker. It’s official because it is signed by Joan Swift, the 4-H lady. And the lady with perhaps the most perfect grown-up penmanship (or is it penladyship?) on the planet.

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