Cooking large meals brings back memories of a large family.
|Looking over the pots filled with food on the stove, a thought enters my mind: “I’ve made too much.”
I hadn’t planned to once again cook a large meal. After all, there are only three of us to cook for. But I meet this reaction with the same response: “Old habits die hard.”
I should know; growing up in a large family meant living with habits.
There’s the habit I had to adopt of keeping an eye on my many siblings. My mother, who spent a lot of time in a wheelchair because of an amputated leg, needed all the help she could get and once any of her seven children were old enough to do some housework or change a diaper, it meant chipping in. There was no questioning this rule; it was non-negotiable.
Sharing everything was also a rule we couldn’t protest (and even when we did, we would lose). When you’ve got older and younger siblings, nothing is ever yours. You share your clothes, your toys, your bed, your room. Even your food. It was a fact of growing up in a large family and, despite the many arguments, this habit of sharing made us all the better for it.
Now, though, the days of fighting over a toy, grumbling about having to wear hand-me-downs to school and having to cope with sharing my room are long gone. Now I live in a home with one child, my own. And, unlike me, my daughter has her own room. Not only this but she’s not pressured with keeping an eye on a sibling or having to do without because of other children to shop for or feed. I have yet to remind her of how lucky she is to have her own bed and new clothes but that just may happen one of these days. Every time I dress her with a new outfit, I’m reminded of the nights my older sister and I had to raid the Goodwill box with hopes of getting “new” clothes. There’s also the memory of how I had to fight tooth-and-nail with one sister who decided to “borrow” a favorite sweater.
These days, home life is pretty quiet. Calling my house doesn’t mean talking with several different people at once, anyone looking into my refrigerator won’t see it stocked with food and drinks, and Christmas means having only a few gifts under the tree – not several for the many family members it’s for.
Still, my memories of growing up in a large family are ones that I cherish. After all, it takes a large family to be able to have enough people for baseball games, homemade movies and the many livid conversations at the dinner table. And my mother, being disabled and unable to work, found ways to be creative with what little money she had to buy food with; many inventive casseroles and sandwiches had been served to us in her way of managing to feed everybody with so little on hand. A local Catholic church often helped us out with that, too, supplying canned goods and even “adopting” us one Christmas. And while my dad would often lose his temper over trying to calm the many storms which erupted among us, he never failed to give each one of us his complete attention and time.
More people in the family meant there was more of everything else, too. More love went around, more stories were told, more hugs were given and more opinions were shared. I can still remember the many sing-alongs we had in the car on family trips, the many times all of us would camp out on the floor to watch a movie and how we’d amaze people that all nine of us could squeeze into a tiny car.
I wouldn’t trade any of those memories for anything. They are reminders that I grew up in a home bursting with activity, with always someone to talk to and always someone to share with.
Being on my own now, with a not-so-large family, maybe there’s a deeper reason for my habit of cooking large meals. Maybe, in some way, I’m keeping those memories alive.
BIO: Dawn Colclasure is a freelance writer, poet, book reviewer and author. Her essays have appeared in magazines such as Mothering, The DPPi Journal and HOMEspirations. She also writes for the newspaper SIGNews, the Web site The Shadowlands and she is a former poetry editor for Skyline E-Magazine. Her Web site: http://dmcwriter.tripod.com/.