It was the late 1950s. I was barely tall enough to reach the record player, but I remember standing next to it, listening to Fats Domino sing, “Blueberry Hill.” My Grandpa (Mom’s father) lived with us at the time and he would tease me about listening to that song over and over. Grandpa bought my older sister the record, “Teddy Bear,” by Elvis Presley…and thus began a lifelong love affair between her and Elvis. My two elder sisters (teenagers at the time) were most likely listening to “Lucille” by Little Richard because I remember my Dad saying, “If I hear “LU…CI…LLE” one more time I’m going to scream!” Dr. Suess had just published “The Cat in the Hat,” the Hula Hoop was all the rage, and Candid Camera and The Twilight Zone were on television. A loaf of bread cost 20 cents and a gallon of gas was 25 cents.
At our house on the weekends in the late 50s/early 60s, Mom spent part of Saturday baking pies or cakes. She came from a large family - 8 brothers and sisters. It became a tradition for most of them to visit our house for Sunday dinner. My memories of that time, although I was very young, are strong. The menu was usually fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans or corn and spice cake with caramel icing - comfort food! I can hear the sound of the chicken sizzling in the cast iron skillet, and see Mom in her housedress setting the table, and the murmur of voices and laughter. Not that it was always a Norman Rockwell painting. We were a normal family, and my uncles were sometimes very opinionated and known for their tempers to flare! But…in the end, it was all good, and everyone felt happy and full.
I’m not sure when those big Sunday dinners ended. Certainly, by the time I was in junior high everyone seemed to have scattered. Some moved away, families grew larger and each had their own busy lives and traditions. But, my Mom’s house always had an “open door policy.” Family would sometimes stop by, unannounced, on Sunday afternoon for a visit, and more often than not, end up lingering for dinner. No matter what Mom was doing, she’d stop and welcome visitors with a smile and a warm “hello, how are you?” After she passed away, a couple of people commented to me about how she always made them feel so welcome, and her door was always open. I think of these things now, as I sit here on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Life has changed dramatically since the 1950s, and I accept that, and even embrace it, for the most part. But my Mom’s generous spirit is sorely missed and nothing can replace it. I like to think of her as a welcoming Angel in Heaven…her door always open, always ready with a smile…just as she was for so many of us here on Earth.