I'm in the kitchen making potato salad today, and I smile to myself as I chop, stir, and taste because my little granddaughter loves it so much she shoves it in her mouth with both hands if we set her in the highchair and give her some to feed herself. Then I remember how my mom would be making this, or my Nan, who is really one of my great-aunties (Grandma passed before I was ever born), and they'd have me help stir things for them. One of the few things I am able to make that is a very old family recipe, and only because Nan always said, "When you're older I'll write them all down and give them to you." Sadly she passed before this ever happened.
Now my family's traditional meals are lost to history because unfortunately there is only one surviving great-aunt, and she never learned any of them. Being the baby, she says, she was usually sent out to play whilst her sisters would help their mother prepare meals. And the few of my aunties that knew them never thought to write them down for any of us. Then there is the fact that of my many cousins, apparently not many of them like to cook as I do, or I can't find them. Sadly they've scattered across the nation, and also very sadly, not been very good about keeping in touch with one another, which makes me want to just curl up and cry, but that's another post for another day.
I can close my eyes and remember the taste of Nan's goulash, her potato soup, her cherry berry pie, and that incredibly tasty, flaky pie crust it was baked in. My mouth is watering as I type because I truly can recall both smell and taste of these foods. So very many more tasty and amazing comfort foods lost to time. One crazy part of all this, after Gran passed away, my 5 youngest aunts went to live with Nan, and she lived in a very small house. As in 2 bedrooms, a little kitchen, cozy living room, and the bathroom contained the commode, a single stall shower, the hot water tank in one corner and that was it. If you needed to wash your hands or face, brush your teeth, etc., you went to the kitchen sink and hoped it wasn't being used.
At times in my childhood, mom and I lived there with them all. That's right, 2 adults, 5 teens of varying ages, and a little girl shared that 2 bedroom tiny house. It still stands, or at least it did as of late summer 2011. We flew home to visit the few aunts, uncle, and cousins that live in my hometown, and I had my husband drive by it. I knew exactly how to get there too, even after not having been there in 26 years. There it sat, the original, weathered, dark brown paint, the crooked carport still attached, and the faded brick chimney now slightly crumbling. All that appeared different to my eye was the removal of the chain link fence that had surrounded the yard. It is on a corner lot, and larger than most lots in the neighborhood. The family living there was in the front yard, and so I declined to take any photos, though I wish I had just asked to do.
It is a seriously small house. My contractor husband estimated it to be about 850-900 square feet. Eight of us living there at times, sometimes for a long, long while too. With all of that said, I only remember happiness and joy there. Uncles, aunts, cousins, family friends, all would drop by for a chat and a cup of coffee. I was very loved, and I loved them all in turn. I was never too cold, or hot, or hungry, or went without. I know now that my hard-working mom didn't have much in the way of money, and for that matter, neither did Nan, but us kids had no idea. There was such mutual love, constantly given in the form of hugs, kisses, praise, it made us bloom. Not to say our backsides didn't heat up were we to fail to behave properly. Respect our elders, mind our manners, don't lie, don't cheat, never take what isn't yours, and always treat everyone as you want to be treated. No better way to grow up.