When I was little, we always had Sunday dinners at Mammaw Hazel’s or Gramma Izzie’s. We alternated back and forth each week because my parents wanted to be sure we were fair to both of their mothers.
Going to Mammaw’s meant a platter of fried chicken (purchased live on Friday and butchered on Saturday at Aunt Ocie’s), a pretty white milkglass plate of snow white and mustard yellow deviled eggs, and that old mixer whipping up creamy mashed potatoes when we went in the door (late – as usual). It meant climbing the tree by the kitchen window with my cousin to escape her little brother (until he got too old and just climbed up after us). It meant Pappaw going outside to sit on the porch so he could hear the baseball game on the radio because the house was too loud. It was shrieking and laughter and everybody gathered in so tightly on chairs and makeup table benches and little wire stools around the little kitchen table that we could barely move our arms to get to our plates. It was everybody talking over everybody else in a cacophany of sound.
Going to Gramma’s meant platters of fried fish from the pond (caught in the pond on Friday and cleaned in the garden on Saturday so we could toss the parts we didn’t use in there for the dirt and cats) and crispy fried potatoes and buttery corn on the cob fresh from the same garden. It meant sometimes two of my cousins would be there, and we would take turns picking out the biggest watermelon we could find, practicing what Grampa taught us and knocking on each one to see if it was hollow sounding and then seeing how far we could spit the seeds. It meant Grampa saying grace and asking each of us if we’d gone to church that week. It was not as loud as Mammaw’s, but usually extended family was there so sometimes we had to set two tables or the kids had to go sit on the big round rug in the living room. It was feeding the ducks on the pond and sneaking under the barbed wire fence to play in the big cement waterer in the cattle pasture (and watching out for the bull one summer). It was busy and fun and just a part of life that we all took for granted.
None of us had a lot back then. I can’t remember any one family member that the others thought was rich, but we all felt blessed. We all had just enough, and just enough was fine.
Now, years later, Sundays are just another day of the week. The cousins are spread far and wide from me, and even the ones close by don’t get together often. Holidays are about the only times we get together during the year. I bought a table at Ikea this past Easter, and it’s been used twice for family dinners. TWICE. We used it once at Easter and once at Thanksgiving. The rest of the time I sit at it to work from my laptop daily and stare down the empty expanse and miss everybody I know and love because all we do is work, work, WORK (myself included).
Work is important because it lets us get the things we need and the things we want. It gets in the way though when there isn’t any time left to enjoy any of the material things or plan the family things anymore.
I’ve reached a point in my life where things have to change. My Mom says I am suffering from the guilt that every working mother suffers from, but I feel like it has to be more than that (is it???). I feel like I left out some key element for my older kids in their growing up years even though I was home and focused all of my attention on them (I’m sure they would say that was to a fault), and I feel like I am definitely leaving out some key element for my youngest kids because I work so much (even though I work from home). I worry that they won’t have any of these great childhood memories like I have, and I worry that they won’t have tight family connections.
My long table is filled with boxes right now, and I can’t make myself clean them off of it because I can’t stand to see it looking like a magazine or catalog table; that’s not what I meant for it to be when I bought it. I envisioned Sunday dinners and lots of kids (where did I think they were going to come from????……..I don’t even know……we aren’t having any more) and lots of adults and pie and coffee. I miss everybody I know, and so many of the family has already gone on. My kids barely know their cousins, and I know very little of what is going on in my own cousins’ lives these days – only what I read on Facebook updates and the occasional phone call. My friends are as busy as I am, and I feel guilty when I can’t answer a phone call as well as when I call them and know I’m taking them away from something they need to be doing just to talk. I have a giant kitchen that I remodeled this past spring and only three people to cook for every day.
How is it that now, when I have everything I could want, I feel disconnected and like I’m missing some key and critical piece of my life? Each week bleeds into the next, and it all just repeats………wash, rinse, spin, repeat……..