If I were to think back in time to a crucial memory, I would have to reflect on the annual family dinners during the holidays. My mother’s side of the family was not only large, but it was also a close-knit family that was held together with tape and glue by my late Aunt Barbra. She was the oldest and second in charge to my Grandmother, out of a family of ten children consisting of six boys and four girls. Grandma was a wise soul who managed to raise her children mostly on her own. Grandpa died when my mother was eight years old from the effects of mustard gas he had been subject to during WWII.
Mom told me many times of her escapades of growing up. How Grandma used to catch the chickens in the backyard and put them on the chopping block for Sunday dinner. One time she forgot to tie the legs and had red-stained sheets on her clothes line. Or of another occasion, when her father was still alive, he went to cook the turkey for Thanksgiving dinner and learned that he didn’t remove all its inners before cooking it. That year, all the guests were fed Liver for dinner because the turkey was ruined.
When I was born, part of the family began coming to my parents’ home for holiday dinners. We lived in a small mobile home. I don’t remember much of this time period as I reflect back in time. I have no idea how everyone was able to fit into that small trailer for dinner. By the time I was entering third grade, my parents had upgraded their mobile home to a larger version. We could now fit about twenty people at one time in our home. A bit crowded, but we fit. Aunt Barbra had taken over the holiday dinners by then. We would travel across the state to spend time at her house instead, usually spending the night.
Thinking back to that time, I see that Aunt Barbra was very successful for a woman during the 1970’s. She worked for Ma Bell back then. Owned her own home, owned her own car and managed her own household up until her death, remaining an old maid. That’s right, she never married. I don’t know if she’d ever had a significant other in her life. She must have had someone, I’m sure. Some of my Uncles had lived with her for a few years before they went off to marry and start their own families.
Those holiday dinners were good times, fun times. Seeing cousins and Aunts and Uncles that we only would see once a year. Family meals were taken for granted. When Aunt Barbra passed away, all the glue and tape let go and the family dinners disappeared.
My mother tried for years to hold on to that family dinner tradition, but it wasn’t the same, and slowly became an obsession that turned into weekly Sunday dinners. Time has passed, the family dinner tradition is only a memory of the past. My own children never had the taste of the family holiday dinner I had when I was growing up. Our Holidays consist of the annual Turkey and Christmas ham that is eaten by four family members and two dogs.
Holiday dinners are not what they used to be, but they are memories I will relish forever.