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Letter From Home 10/11/09

October 11, 2009

Like millions of other Americans we had Sunday dinner at our home today.   We invited a good and long-time friend who had a car problem this week to join us, and after getting his car to the dealership garage to help resolve that problem, I wheeled him back to our place for a meal.   Upon entering our home the first thing I felt was the warmth.  After a weekend where snow flurries fell on James and myself as we walked Saturday’s Farmers’ Market, and overnight temperatures which dipped into the 20’s, the warmness of home was mighty comforting.   The second thing that struck me was the meal James was preparing.  Last week when we heard the cold weather was coming  we planned a meal that would warm this old  house as much as make for a great Sunday dinner.  The smell of roasted turkey in the oven flooded the entry way even before we entered the house.  It was that scent that took me back home to family Sunday dinners in Hancock.  As we all sat around our table and ate today, talking about this news topic or that gossip, my mind floated back and forth to other Sundays and memories back in time.

Family Sunday afternoons were a long-lived, and long-loved pattern to my life.  Starting in 1987, and continuing for about 18 years, I drove from Madison and spent a part of Sunday afternoon with the folks.  As soon as I stepped in the house I knew what was on the stove cooling.  There in a glass baking dish that had seen more holidays, birthdays, snow days, and last minute someone-just-pulled-in-the-yard-and-I have-nothing-ready-to-eat moments was the  glass baking dish of brownies fresh from the oven.

With one square missing.

Dad was quite certain that it important to test them out to make sure they were fit for company.  During my entire life I never knew of a bad batch.   Thankfully though for those who entered our home there was nothing to fear with a live-in brownie taste tester.  On Saturday I noticed that after James and I bought some Halloween candy for the kids he had to make sure as we walked from the store that all in the bag was OK by having a piece.  James has heard the story about dad so often that it has now been passed down to a new segment of my family.  Such is the way to keep fond memories alive.

Each Sunday back home there was a certain rhythm to the day.  Once home I would place on the counter in the kitchen a small pile of newspaper clippings that I had found in the past week that would either amuse my dad, or pique my mom’s interest.  (Clipping from newspapers is a habit I learned from the master, my mom.) For my dad there might be an article about old cars or a political story about farmers and property taxes.  For my mom it might be about a road project in the western states on a highway up in the mountains that we had traveled on a family vacation, or an interesting story about the past history of Chicago, a topic she loved to read about.

After lunch my dad would add his clippings to the Chicago Tribune that I bought for them every Sunday, and head off to the living room.  My mom found the lifestyle and magazine  section and lounged in the dining room.  I have always liked the full kitchen table style of reading my paper that I had brought from home.  So there in the kitchen with tea or coffee I would read “all the news that’s fit to print”.  The family home is such that even though we were in separate rooms all relaxing we could still talk and comment on this or that as we read.

There were always the same moments that took place each Sunday.  At some point my dad would come to the kitchen and his voice would be slightly higher due to a degree of disbelief as he would ask  me, “Do you know what they are selling a used (put in the model and year) car for in Chicago?”   Being almost illiterate on such matters I would listen and be amused that anyone could care.  My dad has always been more into cars and related matters than I ever will be.  (However I should note that I might have correctly diagnosed the problem with our friend’s car as being the starter solenoid.  I think it would impress dad to know of my new skills!)  During football Sundays after 3:00 P.M. I would turn the TV on to get the score and see if the Bears had won, and the Packers had lost.  We never watched football at home, but I still wanted to know the scores. 

My mom was a wonderful cook  though she would always be the first one to say otherwise.  The fact that people loved to be at her table was proof that she was too humble about her abilities in the kitchen.  Each Sunday for dinner there would be one constant item; a large bowl of mashed potatoes.  One of my favorite meals from childhood was  ground hamburger and cream of mushroom soup over potatoes.  That I hasten to add was not representative of my mom’s cooking skills, as she excelled far beyond that in the kitchen.  But when it comes to my favorite comfort foods that is one I still make all these years later.

As I look back on my life I know I have been blessed.  While Sunday at the family home is no longer like it once was I can get there in an instant just with the scent, like today, of our Sunday dinner.  Now a whole new series of routines and memories are being created in our home.  These new pages of life are added to the ones that will always bring smiles.

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