Love, family and a plate full of carbs
Then I read this article in Sunday’s New York Times about how some families are returning to the traditional family “Sunday Dinner” and I found myself feeling even more homesick than usual.
Sunday Dinner at Grandma W.’s was a weekly ritual when I was growing up. The menu rarely varied; I remember spaghetti and meatballs being a staple, along with salad, bread and some type of dessert (usually a Sara Lee cake, but also sometimes pudding or cookies).
Grandma W. had a small house with a living room, a tiny combination kitchen/dining room, one bathroom and three bedrooms, yet every Sunday we’d squeeze in anywhere from four to nine adults and three to six kids and we’d manage to sit down and enjoy a meal together.
After dinner, the kids would run off and play. If it was nice, we’d go outside. For as small as Grandma’s house was, her yard was enormous and we’d run endlessly around it playing everything from tag to elaborate imaginative role-playing games like Dracula or “Mythical Beasts” where we’d all pick a part and play it out to the hilt. We were nothing but traditional. The boys would opt to be dragons or sea creatures, while the girls chose to be unicorns or maybe mermaids and we’d all work together to defeat the evil du jour.
If the weather wasn’t conducive to going outside, we’d play indoor games like Battleship or we’d sit on my Grandmother’s bed and pretend it was a car or a boat or a castle, while the adults chatted in the living room and kitchen. When we got older, we'd go in one of the back bedrooms to listen to albums by the Bee Gees and play "disco." Looking back, it was so quaint it seems almost as imaginary as the unicorns in our game. It represents a time past when multiple generations of families lived within a few miles of each other and no one worried about eating too many carbs.
I’m not sure exactly when this grand tradition came to a halt. Maybe it was around the time my cousins and I entered high school and decided we’d rather hang out with our friends on Sunday than our family. Or maybe it was because my Grandmother began her long, slow battle with lung cancer and couldn’t handle the work involved with feeding a small army every week. I’m not sure, but I know that when it stopped I barely noticed and I haven’t thought much about those Sunday afternoons until reading that article.
For the most part, I like where I live. I like that New York City, the mountains and the ocean are all within a two-hour drive. I’m only about three-and-a-half hours from “home,” but it’s kind of sad that our girls won’t grow up with the close-knit, extended family that I had. Our closest family members live more than an hour away. My girls see their grandmothers a fair amount, but I saw both of mine every week, along with a slew of aunts, uncles and cousins.
It was a great way to grow up. I felt endlessly loved and connected. I belonged there. My family was the center of my world and we kids were the center of theirs.
Don’t get me wrong, my childhood wasn't perfect. But if there’s one piece of it I wish I could recapture for my kids, it’s that feeling of constant belonging and love that comes from a room full of family and a huge plate of spaghetti.