Our kitchen was about twenty-five foot square and our large table was right in the middle, and my parents, Sister’s Petty and Mary and my Brother Bobby, met together every night for dinner at six o’clock sharp.
Coming through the kitchen door, saying “Hi Mom,” and throwing your shoes and jacket on the hall tree was the order of the day. Most days there was the smell of freshly baked cookies in the air and that smell was like getting a great big hug. There was always milk to drink and if I didn’t know better, I’d say we had our very own cow in the backyard, because of the amount of milk we all drank which only sold in pints or quarts at that point in time. I still remember the sound of the milk man’s truck early in the morning with his clinking bottles in his wire rack.
After school my mother would ask about school or sports which is one of my fondest memories. I loved talking to my mom because she was so smart and kind. My mother’s friends called me, “Little Miss United Nations” because I had friends from all over the world come home with me to do homework or play. I did not know what that title meant until years later.
No matter what you were doing or where you were, you always came home by 5:45 in time for dinner. There was no such thing as a television, no frozen T.V. dinner’s, no aluminum foil, no laundromat, no air-conditioners, and I think I remember when the “Jolly Green Giant” was born! When a local bowling alley added air-conditioning, us kids watched a lot of bowling to cool down at night. That plus sitting on the stoop at night talking was a treat.
Sometimes at dinner, my mom would hum, “Mable, Mable, sweet and able, get your elbows off the table” if any of us put our elbows on the table. We lived in a beautiful basement apartment of a three story brown stone in Chicago and the students who’d come from all over the country to go to various colleges lived upstairs.
All of those young students adored my parents because they were home sick and, we subscribed to the “There’s always room for one more” rule. They’d stop by in the mornings for a cup of cocoa or coffee my mom made every day of the week. My mother would listen to every one’s troubles or the hopes and dreams they had. She’d always give out hugs or advice, gave aid and comfort or punch their sympathy card if that was what they needed.
My mom and all the women in my family are good listeners who always seem to find the time to just listen. It must be an innate trait because we all have that ability. Throughout my life, and no matter how young I was, total strangers would tell me their most private stories and memories.
My mom worked nonstop every day of the week. She never complained and loved every minute of her day, and I do that to this day. She would invite her many friends stop in for lunch and she out lived all of her friends. She told me it was the worst thing that ever happened to her.
My dad would relieve mom on Saturdays and we’d spend the whole day going all over Chicago. My mother didn’t cook on Saturdays because around four o’clock she’d take our orders and write a note and I’d walk down to the local Hot Dog stand and place the order. We’d all eat hot dogs and fries Saturday evenings which was followed by Root Beer floats made by my dad. He called them Black Cows. Life was good.
Sundays my dad would come around to all of our bedrooms and give us options for breakfast and we’d generally pick his famous French toast with crisp bacon and I was called “the bacon snitcher!” He cooked breakfast to relieve my mother from her busy schedule. She’d relax and drink her coffee and read the Sunday papers. All of us kids would walk to church and the rest of the day was reserved for laziness and reading the funnies when we came back from church. We all loved being together.
The radio played a big part of our lives back then. After school there was The Lone Ranger, Roy Rogers, Flash Gordon and the Creaking Door to listen to. At night there was Abbott & Costello, Bob Hope, Jack Benny, The Marx Brothers and Amos and Andy who rounded out the group. In 1947, my aunt Ollie bought us a television set. Oh boy, did that open up a can of worms. Our whole family looked forward to many interesting shows and I will never forget Kukla, Fran & Ollie or Captain Kangaroo, two of the first shows directed at kids.
My mother lost her mom when she was only nine years old. Her father was a Scottish sea captain but a tyrannical parent. She vowed to never treat her children the way she was if she ever became a parent. Both her and my aunt Ollie left Canada two years apart and came to Chicago to get away from their father and they lived happily ever after.
My mother met my dad a few months after she arrived and the rest is history. There’s was truly a love story and both of them took advantage of the opportunities that came their way.
My childhood home was filled with wisdom, understanding, compassion, empathy, affection and love. I have been one of the most fortunate people in the world. I married my best friend, raised my children, who actually like me, and been surrounded by wonderful friends throughout my life. I am truly blessed and very grateful.