Record your family treasures.
Write down a favorite family something: a recipe, a saying, a tradition, or a story.
Beyond a shadow of a doubt, the family tradition that first comes to mind for me is our weekly Sunday lunches (or dinners, if you prefer). These have been a time-honored family ritual from my earliest recollections at my great grandparents’ home to the present. Best I can figure, that’s at least sixty years old.
The tradition, at least for myself, started back in the mid-60s when my age was in the single digits. My great grandparents would have us come to their house after church on Sunday and we would have what could best be called a feast. They had a wood stove in the kitchen area that my great-grandmother would use to prepare the meals. Afterward, we would go out in the yard under the big shade trees and have watermelon for dessert. Some of my fondest childhood memories were created during these Sunday lunches together. (Somewhere in my photo archives, I have a picture of one such gathering and will attempt to find it and post it with this story later.)
Once both great grandparents had passed away, our family lunches tradition continued at my maternal grandparents’ home. My grandfather took great pride in the delicious dishes he prepared and if for some reason you didn’t show up at the appointed time, you were sure to receive a phone call to find out where you were. They lived right across from the church we attended, so there were no easy excuses. One of my fondest memories of these times was when my grandfather would eat only one item on his plate at a time. Only after he finished one particular item, let’s say green beans, would he go on to the next food on his plate. He loved corn on the cob, although when he was eating it, most of the time it seemed about half the kernels ended up around his mouth. He would also many times make homemade ice cream and I have as to yet in life taste anything so good.
When my grandfather passed away, my grandmother moved in with her sister, my great-aunt Ruth. Our Sunday meals then moved to her house. Her house was relatively small, but it made for an even cozier family time together. Some of us would sit on the enclosed back porch to eat, a couple at the kitchen table, and sometimes if it was crowded, we would go to the fancy dining room table. Lots of good conversations were to be had during these gatherings. The most memorable part of these gatherings was when someone announced that they were leaving and my aunt Ruth would always say, “Don’t leave,,,, why are you going?” Even to this day, that phrase will sometimes be heard even though Ruth passed away quite a few years ago.
After my grandmother and great aunt passed away, the Sunday lunches moved to my parents’ house. My mother would prepare meals on Saturday to make sure we had more than enough to eat. We had a kitchen table we would sit at and when there was a full house, there were small tables that would be placed in the living room for the overflow to be seated. Many times after the meal was finished, both kids and adults would go to the backyard and laugh and play. The children would take turns being pushed on the swing, playing baseball or soccer, and obviously were filled with great joy.
The pandemic that began in earnest in March of 2020 brought a hiatus to family meals as we knew them. With both parents in their eighties and most of the children and grandchildren working in public, we decided it would be best not to have our weekly gatherings. It was especially hard on my mother, who had the beginning stages of her battle with dementia, and truly didn’t understand why we were no longer getting together.
As time progressed, the pandemic’s severity lessened and we began getting together once more. Given my mother’s condition, we made the decision to start bringing the various courses for the meal from our own homes. This lightened the load on my parents and gave us all the opportunity to contribute. My mother passed away in May of 2022, but we felt it important to continue our family tradition. Today we had pizza and a banana cake that my sister had made. Who knows what might be on the menu next week.
The family tradition continues….