Some of my earliest childhood memories were in my Grandmother's kitchen. It seemed to be the center of my universe and place of security. Grandma was forever making her giant Sugar Cookies.
To this day, no one in my family can come close to duplicating her unwritten recipe. She rolled out a large batch of cookie dough that took up at least half of the kitchen table. Using a large upside-down coffee cup, she'd stamp out the cookies and put then on huge cookie sheets. My job was to grease the sheets with Crisco by using a wadded up piece of wax paper. About twenty minutes in the oven and Viola! Nothing was better than her steaming hot Sugar Cookies with an ice-cold glass of milk!
It was understood that any family member walking into my Grandparent's house was always welcomed to head right for the Cookie Jar and help themselves. Whoever took the last cookie was required to let Grandma know and she would immediately get to work on making a fresh batch. Since her house was Grand Central Station for her five children, spouses, and Grandchildren, she was baking cookies daily. All cookies were put in The Little Red Riding Hood Cookie Jar that my cousin still has and is probably the most cherished family heirloom.
My Grandparent's house was a large white stucco two-story on Omar Street in Struthers. Everyone was expected to go to their house after church Sunday for dinner. I never did graduate to the Big Table where the adults sat in the main dining room. I was relegated to the Kitchen table or a TV tray positioned at a chair in the living room. Before dinner, we would all sit outside in nice weather on their large front porch. Conversation was sometimes drowned out by the big Matlack Ashpalt Trucks droning up Poland Avenue, which was State Route 616, three doors away.
Dinner was quite often every one's favorite: Chicken and Dumplings. Again, one of those recipes that Grandma took with her. Her dumpling were thick and floury and about two inches square. I NEVER remember there being leftovers. A typical side dish was String Beans that I recall snapping with her out on the porch. She would snap the beans and drop them into her apron. She'd gather up the edges of the apron and walk into the house, dropping them into the sink to wash them. Cornbread was a mainstay of Grandma's Southern Cooking and upbringing. I think a dollop of sugar was her secret to the "To-Die For" Cornbread.
After dinner, many activities took place in the yard and in the house. Croquet was a main stay for the men. I thought it was a real treat when I was allowed to play with them, even as a teenager. Most of the women and girls gathered around the piano and sang all kinds of tunes throughout the afternoon. My sisters and cousin sang as a Trio at church on many occasions and my Grandmother just loved when they would sing her favorite hymns. "How Great Thou Art" is still ringing in my ears.
As all good things must come to an end, so did our family gathering on Sundays. My Grandparents decided after Grandpa retired,that The Ole White House was just too big for them and too much upkeep. They moved to a tiny one-bedroom home with a very small kitchen and living room. Besides, most of their children's kids were older and starting families of their own. My folks and other Aunts and Uncles tried to keep up the gatherings, but it just wasn't the same.
I truly feel sorry for you if you didn't get to experience large family gatherings in your younger days. I really learned the meaning and love of family. It never hurt one bit to know my place in the Pecking Order. Respect for your Elders is unheard of today. Most of our kids think it's a God-given rite to act like an obnoxious Brat and not offer consideration to any adults. I know I sound like my Father and it's scary. Guess the Old Man made sense after all...