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Finding Comfort in Tradition

A short Life Story, by Diane Davis Andrew

Life as I knew it changed at the beginning of September, 1958. My stay-at-home Mother began working as a nurse, leaving home before I was awake. My Daddy became the breakfast maker, often runny scrambled eggs and toast. Yuk!

Daddy hurt his knee at work and had to change jobs. It seems like he is always angry. He is so tall (6’7”) and his anger makes him seem even bigger. Instead of Diane, my name seems to be “Dummy!”, “Stupid!” or “Can’t you do anything right?” I’m always in trouble with a capital T!

I can’t wait until Sunday arrives because we will be going to Grandma’s for Sunday dinner with the whole clan which we do every Sunday, a tradition.

After Church, we load up the car and head out. I know we are getting closer to Galveston as the rice fields appear on both sides of our car. I hold my breath as we drive over the top of the Causeway and then stick my face out of the window and greedily take a big gulp of air. The familiar tangy scents of saltwater and seaweed fill my senses. I’m home!

As we turn onto 13th street from Broadway I strain to see if Uncle Malcolm’s car is parked outside Grandma’s. I can’t wait to see them all. At last we arrive. The M.C. Davis’s got to Grandma’s first! A cacophony of loud talking and laughter pours out through the screen door welcoming us. I go around the room giving and receiving hugs and kisses. No one is left out. (My Grandma has 6 children, 5 live in Galveston, or close to it.)

“Come here, Skinny!” Uncle Malcolm, my favorite uncle, opens his arms and draws me into a bear hug and then gives me a quick swat on my butt sending me on my way. The family, all my cousins, aunts, and uncles, are home for Sunday dinner. The heady smells of garlic, warm French bread and whatever meat and vegetables Grandma is cooking, make my stomach growl. I can’t wait for dinner. I rush into the kitchen where Grandma always has a bit of meat or a taste of something for me. All the adults crowd in to fix hi-balls talking and laughing at the top of their voices, catching up on the news of their week apart from one another.

Mickey, Karen and I, the oldest cousins, help set the tables. All of the children sit at a separate table while the adults sit at the big rectangular table in the center of the dining room with the children’s table making a T at the side of the room. The dining room is shady and several fans move the humid air around. The sheer curtains gently dance in the breeze that comes through huge four paned, double hung, windows. Anticipation fills the house as we are called to dinner. We each have our special place at the tables. Mother and Aunt LoEtta settle all of the younger children into their high chairs or up onto telephone book towers on their chairs.

One of my Uncles says Grace and then, at last, our plates are served. My favorite meals are turkey and dressing that Grandma cooks in the big electric roaster and her wonderful baked spaghetti and meatballs. Sponge-like, my eyes and ears absorb the sights and sounds. We all listen to Grandma tell about her week and the chores she needs her boys to do for her. (But not Uncle Bernard, as my Dad reminded me when we talked about this recently.) (That’s another story!)

After lunch we all clean up and take our plates to the kitchen where some of the Aunts and Uncles wash the dishes. The babies go upstairs with their mothers for naps and we, the older children, are free to play cards or jacks, read or rest. Grandma sits in her rocking chair, slowly moving back and forth while she watches and listens to us.

Old Maids with Aunt Pauline is our favorite game. Karen or I usually win and Aunt Pauline accuses us of cheating. We giggle loudly and fall backwards on the floor. On this particular day, however, our loud laughter interrupts a conversation my Dad is having. With a rush of sound he quickly exits his chair and I can feel his hand getting ready to smack me. I race to hide behind Grandma’s chair. I’m in trouble again!

“Junior, don’t hurt that girl! You’re not too old for me to turn you over my knee!” Everyone laughs and the tension eases. My champion! How I love her. Although Grandma is not very tall, she is formidable and her very tall sons each well over 6 feet, listen to her.

As the day cools down and the sun lowers in the sky we all drift out onto the porch where a damp, salt scented breeze caresses us. We kids sit on the steps or on the floor at our parents’ feet. Together we sing songs, How Much is that Doggie in the Window? Sugar Time, and our parents’ favorite hymns Whispering Hope, Church in the Wildwood. How wonderful our singing is with Aunt Estelle leading us, her lovely soprano voice floating on the breeze.

Neighbors stop to chat as they pass by or come out onto their porches to take pleasure in the evening. Grandma sits in her rocker on the porch enjoying her favorite time of the day. No more chores or cooking. (Supper is always leftovers.)

As the sky darkens and the street lights begin to shine, our loud, excited talking gives way to low murmurs and lazy chatting with occasional laughter. We are refreshed and renewed. Reluctantly we begin to pack up the cars. We all hug and kiss and then the mainland families make the trek to our weekday homes, this time driving down the Seawall to 61st street and then over the Causeway to Houston.

©2007 Diane D. Andrew