Writing 101, Day 10: Happy (Insert Special Occasion Here)!
Tell us about your favorite childhood meal — the one that was always a treat, that meant “celebration,” or that comforted you and has deep roots in your memory.
As far back as my memory goes, we have always had the same dinner on Christmas day. Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes or sweet potato casserole, a vegetable, green bean casserole, dinner rolls and celery filled with cream cheese. My mother was one of 7 children and I grew up with lots of cousins. Until we grew up and started getting married, we all gathered on Christmas day. Early on it was at my aunt’s house but then it was at our house. I’m not sure why but it remained at our house until we stopped getting together. To this day, I always serve the same meal on Christmas day.
It isn’t a fancy meal. It’s quite boring when you get down to it. The stuffing is pretty basic- NO MEAT- but I love it. My husband (and a few other people) have suggested adding something to it or maybe trying a different recipe. I have nicely (I hope) but firmly let him know that he is welcome to make his own stuffing but that it would be in addition to the stuffing we always have. I have such a strong association with this meal and my family and Christmas.
My earliest memories are of Christmas day at the house I grew up in. My aunts, uncles and cousins would come over and the house would quickly fill up. We lived in a raised ranch and the kids ended up in the basement. We had so much fun in that basement, which really wasn’t large enough for the 15 of us- give or take a few depending on who might be sick that year. It was loud and out of control and fun. The adults wisely chose to stay upstairs and with 14 of them, they did not want our help in the kitchen. We did not have enough tables or chairs so invariably us kids would have to find a place to sit. For years, my favorite spot was on the stairs- 2nd step down.
When it was time for clean up, my mom tried to get us to help. At some point, I found myself looking forward to either drying dishes or putting them away. I enjoyed listening to my mom and aunts talking and laughing in the kitchen. We had a dog and everyone would scrape all the leftover food onto a plate for him. One year, my aunt walked in and started picking off the dog’s plate. If that wasn’t funny, what did make us laugh was when she continued eating the food after finding out it was for the dog. Another year, it was unseasonably warm and my uncle made all the kids take a walk around the neighborhood. You can only imagine the spectacle we were, 15-18 grumbling, laughing, yelling kids following my uncle who walked with purpose, as if unaware of the mob following him. One of the last times we had the big family at our house for Christmas, I rushed out after dinner to spend time with my boyfriend. Boy, was my mom mad.
We’ve had some interesting Christmases since but nothing beats those Christmas dinners from long ago. Of course, it makes sense, doesn’t it? I wasn’t the one doing all the shopping, preparing, cooking and cleaning, right? 🙂