Oma’s Sunday Dinners
I remember when… Every Sunday growing up as long as I can remember my family, Dad, Mom, sis Mary, and I would pile in Dad’s maroon 1949, eight-cylinder Packard sedan after church and head for Oma and Opa’s for fried chicken dinner, garlic mashed potatoes, corn and Jell-O. Packards were considered an upscale car and would be considered gas guzzlers nowadays, but then gasoline in 1951 was only about 30 cents a gallon and most cars got 14 miles to the gallon. Ours was not brand new, but it had not a scratch on it and dad washed and waxed it on Saturdays in the summer. Oma and Opa lived about 10 miles across town. We drove from 251 Hillside Avenue to 942 Fifth Avenue to Oma and Opa’s who lived across the street from Sunnymere Retirement home in Aurora.
Dad’s ’49 Packard had running boards along the side under the doors for us shorties, Mom, Sis, and me to climb aboard. Once situated in the car, we rode in style, sitting back and relaxing in the plush gray seats playing with our baby dolls.
After driving over paved streets through neighborhoods with homes with front porches, and friends waving to us, we arrived about 20 minutes later. Pulling into Opa’s driveway we could smell the aroma of fried chicken and grandma’s special Boston baked bean recipe. Her award-winning family recipe was made with lima beans, brown beans, kidney beans, molasses, brown sugar, onions, ketchup, and a full pound of bacon, and sweet corn. In later years my aunt Lola entered this recipe in the local newspaper recipe contest and won first prize. It was that good!
Grandpa sauntered in from his wood-working shop dressed in his long-sleeved plaid shirt, dark gray, wool slacks and his plaid, wool jacket when we arrived. He had built the wood working shop as an annex in the back yard for him to putter around in making furniture: cedar chests, rocking chairs and doll furniture for my cousin Karen, Sis and me. Our dolls had wooden oak beds, high chairs, and wardrobe closets, before amoires were common.
Grandma always greeted us wearing an apron with large front pockets. My Aunt Lola, Dad’s sister and only sibling, her husband Uncle Theron and Cousin Karen, who was once a Gerber baby, were part of our weekly Sunday dinners.
I fondly remember these times because Oma and Opa always gave us kids time to talk about our activities. We could be seen and heard at the dinner table, not like some of our friends who were told children should be seen and not heard.
Oma always made our special dessert each week…Jell-O. Red strawberry Jell-O with whip cream and real strawberries inside when she had them in her garden or lime Jell-O with pineapple, walnuts, cottage cheese and whip cream.
After an enjoyable dinner, the adults would clear the dishes and set up the table for Canasta. The three couples made up three teams. Grandpa and Grandma would not always win but Grandpa used to give Grandma signals like kicking her under the table (I think that’s devious) when he wanted her to play the correct card to help his hand and Grandma would say, “Pa why are you kicking me?” And that just confirmed what everyone knew. Grandpa liked to win all the time and was not happy if he didn’t. After a few Sundays of this, the teams changed and it was the women against the men.
We kids would scoot off to a corner of the family room and set up our own card game. We had learned Canasta by this time and I was the sharpie. I took after Grandpa. I always won, beating Karen and Mary at Canasta until they caught on. After awhile, upon the insistence of Mary and Karen, we kids gave up cards and played with our dolls.
At the end of an enjoyable evening, hugs, kisses, and saying our goodbyes to everyone, we would gather up our things, including left-over chicken (Oma always made extra) and pile back into the Packard and head for home.
They are all gone now, the 1949 Packard sedan, the Sunday dinners, the card games, Oma, Opa, Mom, Dad, Aunt Lola, and Uncle Theron. Only the memories for Sis, Karen and me to cherish.