far too much writing, far too many photos

[continued from previous entry]

It was a strange group, our family. Tense, a bit pinched. With far too much going on beneath the surface, things I had no clue about until many years later. (Probably a good thing in some ways, that ignorance.)

But it had its strong points, one being the sweet ritual of holiday-season meals. I never saw displays of abundance of that calibre during the rest of the year — my father worked as a teacher in New York City. Big stress, low wages. Leaving a thin pool of money to be tossed around. And though frugality was the watchword during most of the year, the ‘rents let go when the holidays arrived. Not running up debts as far I know, but spending what they had right up to the limit. The first round of that letting-go being the Thanksgiving spread.

The kitchen was a teeny claustrophobia-inducing space, a nearly microscopic enclosure. The holiday meals my mother wrestled into existence –- plate after plate, bowl after bowl, platters brimming over with mounds of turkey — was the lower-middle class culinary equivalent of an endless stream of clowns getting out of a Volkswagen bug. It was herculean, spectacular — an annual feat that may not have received the lavish gratitude and appreciation it deserved.

My memories of food during the rest of the year: a blur of canned veggies, ground beef/hot dogs, and sugar, sugar, sugar. And the ‘rents subscribed to the school of thought that insists a kid must eat what’s put on their plate, no matter how unappealing and/or toxic that ‘what’ may be. Leading to me passing long, unhappy evenings siting at the kitchen table long after everyone else had finished up and bolted, staring at the mound of lima beans (cold, congealed, straight out of a can) that I refused to choke down, until the world outside had gone dark, the tv had been cranked in the living room and the old lady wearied of the battle of wills and threw me out of kitchen. Not a kind of difficulty that arose during holiday dinners.

Another family strength on display during holiday meals: the sense of humor that enabled clan members to survive the rest of the year. Normal meals happened in the household’s tiny kitchen, everyone crammed in around a compact, rectangular table, laughter and hilarity not figuring in my memories of that. Change the venue to the small dining room — site of mealtime gatherings on Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, maybe one or two more occasions during a given 12-month span — and it was as if a switch got tripped, enjoyment and good-humor bubbling over, radiating out. Normal mealtimes were mostly not a time of big fun for me in that house — normal life was mostly not a time of big fun for me in that house. But I have no dark memories when it comes to squeezing into my chair at the dining room table, no troubling memories of family dramas or acting out — not one. No drunken goofiness, no skeevy interpersonal dynamics. Could be they were there — they just didn’t get the kind of play they received the rest of the time. These moments were too good to corrupt. Or that, anyway, is how I remember them.

[continued in following entry]

España, te echo de menos

Leave a Reply

Proudly powered by WordPress. Theme developed with WordPress Theme Generator.
Copyright © runswithscissors. All rights reserved.