I grew up going to church every single Sunday. Every. Single. Sunday. It didn’t matter if we were camping (campground service), if we were sick (I’ve been sick at church several times!), or if we were acting up (my dad lived for taking us out of church – sometimes, he would take us to visit the ducks at the park.) In any case, if it was Sunday, it was pretty safe to say, we were at church.
Now, I was raised Catholic, but my dad is Lutheran and we went to both churches growing up. I didn’t mind it – the churches didn’t mind it, either, as we tended to be in service more than a lot of the other full-time members. Our big family, with five squirmy kids, were crammed into the pew – some observers called our family “the circus.” I guess it was fun to watch!
On the weeks we went to my mom’s church, after Mass, the family would gather at my Grandma’s house. She lived in a 1950’s rambler with a breezeway that separated the garage from the main house. Grandma would go to Saturday evening mass, so she would spend Sunday morning making a big breakfast for everyone – eggs, sausage, toast, fruit, juice and lots of coffee. On special occasions, she would maybe make a roast with mashed potatoes and gravy – and her famous buns, which gave us grandkids the liberty to say, “I love Grandma’s buns!” or “Nice buns, Grandma!”
(We were kids, what can I say?)
Grandma giggled and totally played along. “Oh,” she laughed, “Oh, thank you!”
As an adult, I wonder how in the world we all fit. Most weeks, there were at least four families there, but my Grandma had nine children, so when everyone was in town, it was quite a zoo. Like I said, our family had five kids, and that’s just one family, so you better believe, there were a ton of kids scurrying around! The house was small – much smaller than the house my husband and I live in, now, but it never felt that way to me. The parents would sit at the dining room table, talking or playing games. When it was warm outside, we kids would hang out in the breezeway – there was a trampoline and a spiral swirled fur-textured rug, that we used to imagine was quicksand. In the winter, when it was too cold to be in the breezeway, we would be in one of the two spare bedrooms or shuffled downstairs in the basement.
The basement was plain, just white cinderblock walls and a beige couch and red painted slab floors, but held so much more. Some good things, some, well, not.
Our older cousins would play Prisoner of War with some of the younger cousins, tipping a wooden crib over them to use as a cage. (“Play” is dependent on which role you were in, the prisoner or the keeper.) I was too close in age and size to worry about that. Me? I was the one shaking my finger at the accused and ushering the victims I could save into the bathroom under the stairs.
Fascinated with writing and drawing, I started a drawing club called “Doodles.” Armed with a stack of printer paper and crayons, we would huddle under the stairs and we would work on character development. We would write and illustrate stories about our characters and I actually would send out newsletters from time to time to my long-distance cousins to keep them in the loop with our group’s activities. (Kind of dorky, but this was the odd type of child I was.)
The older cousins, now bored without prisoners to torture, would peer at our little group through the gaps between where the cinderblock walls ended and where the rafters began and launch stuffed toys and dolls at us. I remember vividly the time when one doll (a black-haired brown-skinned naked one that my grandma brought back from one of her trips to Hawaii) landed in the toilet! (Remember, we were in a bathroom.) Needless to say, we were horrified!
Anyway. Outside of the torture, or maybe, inclusive of it, afternoons after Mass at my Grandma’s were some of my favorite memories growing up. I am hoping that Jayan, someday, can have some memories like that of growing up with his own cousins. (Although he’s one of the oldest cousins, versus one of the youngest, so he’s more likely to be running the POW camp, versus being a prisoner in it.)
Considering that Jayan has a set of grandparents across the globe and my own family is within a three-hour drive, for him, times like what I remember may be far and few between. Thinking about it, I find myself missing some of that togetherness. Missing the afternoons where my biggest concern was that “Oh my god! The older cousins are being so mean! Don’t you care?” (Yes, I had the drama back then, too.)
Sunday afternoons for us, now, are a little different. My husband is Hindu and I have a tough time going to church alone, so Sundays are a bit like Saturdays at our house. My husband and son sleep in and I take solace in the mornings on my own to do some writing or to look at blogs. It’s peaceful, but a different kind of peace.
Not unhappy, but maybe a little lonely.
My grandma sold the house in 1997. I remember the auction of the things in her house was in range of Princess Diana’s funeral. My cousin Suzy bought the swirly rug, but I’m not sure where a lot of the other things went. Breakfasts after Mass stopped. Grandma moved into an assisted living home, and then to a nursing home. She struggled with Alzheimer’s, by the end, not knowing who I was when I visited, but still saying I was pretty and asking if I had a suitor.
I told her I had a boyfriend, but I don’t think I told her that he wasn’t Catholic.
This year will be ten years since she passed. And that boy I was dating? Will have been my husband for seven.
I cannot believe it has been that long, already.