A Note to My Readers: I just spent a couple of hours going through some material from the 1950’s and 1960’s. “The old days” as my grandchildren would say though it is just yesterday to me. My childhood is never far from my thoughts as I work through my genealogical research. In fact, since this is a ‘working backwards’ kind of thing, I realized that I am thinking of my ancestor’s lives in reverse sometimes. We work in the world of adult landmarks…deeds, wills, church and military records, marriage records…and even the birth of children is in relation to the parent as a first thought.
On occasion someone has memorabilia from their childhood…a child’s drawing…a report card…a diploma…certificate of achievement…old photos…and if we are really lucky…the old sled that carried you downhill through countless winters or the worn out stuffed animal that kept you company after your tonsillectomy. I have a box full of my report cards from kindergarten through high school…and my college diploma. Amidst hundreds of old Kodak photos, my mother kept a birthday card I made for her when I was nine years old. Her sentimentality and the serendipity of what she kept sometimes is a mystery to me, but that makes the keepsakes all the more tender. But…the most fragile memento of all…is a memory. That is why I write. My mother threatened to write…she wrote lovely poems and only one remains among the family treasures. Although I continue to research and read a variety of publications, every once in awhile I am prompted to recall my own childhood.
The old days. Yesterday.
When I was a kid, my mother made the same meal plan every week. Sunday’s dinner after church was Spanish Rice, salad, a slice of bread and my mother’s lemon meringue pie for dessert. Wednesday…always spaghetti with meatballs, salad and a slice of bread. Tuesdays…pork chops, mashed potatoes, green beans..and yep…a slice of bread. Breakfast was always a bowl of Cheerios with a banana and a small glass of orange juice. Saturdays we had tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwiches and a dill pickle slice. There were no ‘snacks’. Just a shiny apple fresh from New York state orchards and during the holidays…a big crate of oranges and grapefruit shipped from the Indian River area of Florida as a gift from my mother’s sister.
My widowed mother worked SIX days a week…and nine to nine on Fridays…eventually it became my job to start the meal so she could finish it when she got off the six o’clock bus. The table was set and my sister, my mother and I ate supper together, talked about our day. We cleared the table together and stood at the sink and ‘did the dishes’ together. It was my favorite time of the day. We sang songs…mostly badly…but we laughed and had fun and the lack of melody didn’t matter.
I just read this article about planning a different meal for every day of the month without repeat…aimed at women. The heck with that…Mom..AND Dad…whip up some Spanish Rice and hang out with your family…get everyone to the sink to do dishes and sing something. I will never forget those times with my mother. Thank goodness she didn’t know that she was supposed to cater meals instead of share them and her time with us. I think it is more important that I remember my mother’s laughter…the smell of her perfume while she stood next to me with a dish towel in her hand…than some dizzying pantheon of recipes.
Besides…I learned to make great Spanish Rice and though I own a dishwasher, I still find myself singing one of her favorites…“Ain’t She Sweet” while loading the pots and pans.
Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher
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