One of my other passions is writing. All of my stories and poems are about the things I have experienced since I was a child. Some are devotions, one of which was published in "The Upper Room", a United Methodist Church publication. Most of the others are "rememberings" from a precious childhood in a suburb of Birmingham, Alabama from 1951 forward. A few are accounts of my nursing home experiences. I cared for two grandparents, one aunt, my mother and still have my dad in a nursing home. Many of these have been published in various media including the "Birmingham Post Herald" and "Senior Living", a monthly publication in which I have a column titled "I Remember."
I would like to share some of them with anyone who cares to read them. They might bring back precious memories for you!
Here's one with more to follow. Hope you enjoy it!
THE BREAKFAST ROOM
The house where I grew up next door to my grandparents and aunts had a breakfast room. Some of you will remember these, some of you won’t. I know the term is self-explanatory, but the particulars of the old ones are worth exploring. Today’s kitchens have “breakfast nooks”, often in a bay-window. That’s not a breakfast room. They were usually tucked in between the kitchen and the dining room, in varying sizes. My grandmother’s was larger, with room for a table and six chairs. She also had corner cabinets hung on the wall to hold some of her salt and pepper shaker collection. Ours was more compact. There was a table with built in benches on either side and a window fan on the end wall by the table. This fan was used to push hot air out of the window as we had no air-conditioning. On the other side were built in cabinets. The overhead ones had glass doors so that you could display pretty things. I think there was hope that they would get less dusty that way, but you know that didn’t happen.
I loved this room. We hardly ever ate in the dining room. In fact, I remember it being turned into a den with the dining room furniture moved into one end of the living room. We ate in the breakfast room – all of us – together – at the same time. I know it sounds barbaric by today’s standards, but that’s the way it was. We tried at times to talk our way into the den in front of the television, but it never worked. There wasn’t that much to watch on t.v. anyway. I can still close my eyes and remember so many of those meals. My mother was a terrific cook. We all had our favorites. Mine was anything with potatoes, didn’t much matter what else, just lots and lots of potatoes. My brother next to me loved Mother’s casserole made from sausage, cheese, and potatoes. She started out baking the potatoes, scooping out the middle, putting a browned sausage link inside, covering with the rest of the potato and topping with cheese before putting them back in the oven. As the family grew, and the appetites, she just started stewing the potatoes and putting it all in a casserole dish. My baby brother’s favorite was spaghetti. Mother’s spaghetti was different – very mild and all mixed together. I think Daddy preferred roast beef cooked with potatoes, onions, and carrots. I remember having my very first pizza in this room, having donuts and coffee, (milk for us), when my aunts and uncles visited from Georgia, and playing games as a family.
During most of these years, times were hard and Mother really had to work at keeping us fed. I know she pretended not to be hungry sometimes so there would be enough. One of the things she cooked the best was diced potatoes fried with onions. My oldest brother and I would race through our first helping to see who could get the little bit that was left on the platter. Yes, we used platters and serving bowls - none of this helping yourself from the stove. We always set the table properly with fork on the left and knife and spoon on the right. We had to use proper manners as well. We couldn’t even prop up one side of the plate with a knife or spoon to keep the turnip green juice from running into everything else. Daddy hated this. He said if we didn’t behave properly at home, we wouldn’t remember to do it when we were out. I’m sure now that he was very wise in teaching us this, but it sure seemed unreasonable at the time. Looking at people in restaurants today, I seriously doubt they were raised like we were.
We no longer have a breakfast room. There is a breakfast bar between the kitchen and the den, but we don’t usually eat there. Yes, I’m afraid the television has finally won out – except for early on Saturday mornings. I have an old English pub table by the window in the den with an antique lamp on it and a chair from my grandmother’s kitchen to sit in. I like to fix my breakfast or a cup of tea and sit there for a little while before my day starts. No television, no newspaper, just quiet except, for the echoes of past meals in my Mother’s breakfast room.
July 10, 2003
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