There are not many memories in my mental Rolodex that cause me to feel as warm and fuzzy as the memories of Sunday dinner (dinner meaning lunch here) at my mother’s mother, Grannie Silcott’s, house. The menu didn’t vary much. It mostly consisted of roast, potatoes, corn, and green beans. There was leeway at times with an additional hot roll or carrots or a salad, but there was always the top 4–roast, potatoes, corn, and green beans. Grannie S. would put the roast in the oven in the morning before she struggled into her stockings and applied a little rouge on her cheeks and off we’d hustle to Central Baptist Church for Sunday school and church.
You see I spent almost every weekend of my early childhood with my Grannie Silcott. She was widowed and now that I look back on it, I suspect she was lonesome. She was my safe place. She had a cozy home that was predictable and routine, not at all like my own. We would sit together on Saturday nights in her little TV room and watch Golden Girls followed by 227, and Cagney and Lacey. Then we’d head off to bed together. We would recite “another day, another dollar” even though neither of us had made a cent while she rubbed some awful smelling ointment on her knees for her arthritis. Then she’d lay down, pull up the covers, and roll away from me. I would ask her to snuggle me, but she wouldn’t. “You snuggle me,” she’d answer. So I’d wiggle myself up to her back and bury my nose until I grew used to the smell of that awful arthritis ointment and fall asleep.
She’d always rise early and have the roast on before I was up. We’d recite “This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it” before preparing ourselves for church where we sat about seven rows from the back.
At the end of each Baptist sermon, the preacher would have an altar call.
“With every head bowed and every eye closed,” he’d begin his prayer for the lost souls. I knew this was the time. I’d peek up at Grannie and she’d be gathering her purse, and with every head bowed and every eye closed, we’d sneak out the back door. We had a roast in the oven!
She wasn’t one to try to teach me how to cook; I was more of an inconvenience so she’d let me watch and at least I got to use the electric can opener to open the cans of green beans and corn. And setting the table. What kid doesn’t grow up having to set the table? I’d set her colorful Fiesta dishes around the old round table and always have to ask which side to put the fork on. I still don’t know the answer to that. We’d drag in some extra chairs from the living area and just as the potatoes were being mashed, the rest of the family would begin arriving. Cousins, aunts, and uncles. Grannie would be putting the food on the table as everyone was making their way to a chair. Then a day of fun and family would commence, with everyone talking at once.
It was in my early teenage years, after my mom and dad had separated, that Sunday dinner held a new purpose. My dad had left Pampa and moved back to Tahlequah. It was the time before cell phones and social media. Back when it cost money to call long distance. Grannie Silcott had upgraded from a rotary phone to a cordless that set on the desk in her kitchen. Just like clock work, every Sunday around 12:30 the phone would ring and it would be my dad calling to talk. Of course it interrupted our meal, but he knew it was the only time he absolutely knew he could catch us there together and could talk to me and my sister. I remember his voice on the phone, making jokes about what we were eating. “Let me guess,” he’d say. “I bet you’re having roast, potatoes, green beans and corn.”Most of the time he was right, but some times I got to tell him he forgot the rolls or the carrots or salad. He’d tell me he wished he was there. I always thought he meant because of the meal, but now, many years later, I understand it wasn’t the meal he was missing.
After Grannie Silcott died in 2004, the Sunday dinners died with her. We don’t get together as a family much anymore. Of course, there’s the big dinners: Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter. And of course we always try to celebrate birthdays but it isn’t like it used to be.
In the past two and half years that me and J-Dub moved away from Pampa, I have come to understand the importance of family. Of memories. Of cousins and aunts and uncles. Of Sunday dinners. It takes just a little absence of family to begin to realize that it’s because of them we live and breathe.
Our world moves so fast. Our lives are complicated. We’re too involved in keeping our kids schedules cram packed that we often can’t sit down for a meal with extended family without an excuse like a wedding or a funeral. I want my kids to have the memories that I cherish. The love that was shown by my grandmother each and every week putting a hot meal on the table for all her kids. I want my kids to have some traditions they recall fondly when they’re grown.
So today I did it. I put a roast in the oven before I struggled— not into my stockings—- but into my skinny jeans for church this morning. I applied a little blush to my cheeks and hustled out the door. We returned to a house smelling like Grannie Silcott’s on Sundays. It wasn’t exactly the same. It wasn’t even remotely the same. There were more differences than similarities between my Sunday dinner and hers, but it’s a start. One that I hope to continue.