In honor of Throw-Back-Thursday …
It’s Sunday dinner at Baddi and Graggy’s, my Mother’s parents. (We call them Baddi and Graggy, not Grandma and Grandpa, or Nana and Papa, or any of the other countless variations that kids call their grandparents. I’m not entirely sure why. I know that my Mother called her grandfather Graggy, but Baddi? Can’t even say for sure if that’s how you would spell Baddi, it’s not an actual word.) We arrive after church and Graggy is just putting the roast beef into the oven. Baddi and Graggy serve us roast beef every Sunday. They do this even though my parents are, at the moment, raising us vegetarian. But for Sunday dinner we children eat (seconds, yes please!) Boston rump roast. We also drink Coke at Baddi and Graggy’s, and eat potato chips, things never allowed at home.
Before dinner, we kids play board games with our Aunt. A favorite is “Bottom’s Up” a drinking board game. In the game, when your piece lands on certain spots, or when you miss a question or challenge, you are supposed to take a shot of alcohol. We take shots of Coke. Our Aunt drinks Pepsi, lacing hers with something, bourbon, I think. We play these games up in the living room in front of the TV tuned to the Sunday Afternoon Movie – Doris Day and Rock Hudson, Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon. At home we are only allowed to watch PBS. We munch on ripples chips and French onion dip.
About a half hour before dinner, Graggy calls me to the kitchen. He has pulled the roast from the oven and it sits, resting on the part of the counter which is a built-in wooden cutting board, in a pool of juice, it’s own blood. He slices off the burnt, crusty end and offers it to me. He does this because he knows it is my favorite part of the roast. He slices it and offers it to me resting on the back of his carving knife. I take it with my fingers and the juice runs down my hand.
I am then allowed, even though I am only 7, to help get the rest of the dinner ready. I am sent down stairs to the basement to collect cans of vegetables from the seeming hundreds of them lining the shelves. I think Baddi and Graggy must be very rich to have so much food on hand. And in cans no less. At my house we only have fresh fruits and vegetables, often things from our own garden or my other grandparents. I think this is because we are poor. But maybe my Parents were just way ahead of the curve on the whole eat local thing.
Back in the kitchen I use the electric can opener to open the corn and green beans and I dump them into pans and set them on the stove. I can’t manage the jar of pearl onions myself, but once Graggy twists off the cap I dump those into a tiny saucepan, just the right size. I warm up milk and butter in another pan and then fluff in the potato flakes which I have carefully measured from the box. “That’s my Katie-did,” Graggy praises in his deep, deep voice. He pulls baked potatoes from the oven for the adults.
My Mother and Baddi have set the long dining table for the grown ups and the mosaic-topped, kidn-y shaped coffee table for the kids. We dish up plates in the kitchen buffet style. My mother, on the seven-day wonder diet, takes only a baked potato and pours another glass of Chablis. My Big Sister likes to take a bit of everything (except the baked potato) and cover it all with gravy. Back at her seat she will stir all of it together into a mush and will eat it with a spoon. My Little Brother will eat nothing but mashed potatoes. He is three.
At the very last moment, my Uncle will stumble from his bedroom, often dressed in only a bathrobe, hair sticking out in all directions from the top of his head. My Uncle is home from college. He sniffs and squints and runs his fingers through his already thinning hair. Once seated, Baddi at one end of the table, Graggy at the other, we will pause and Baddi will ask for one of the children to say grace. “God is great, God is good, let us thank him for this food, amen.”