My mother was a fabulous cook. She loved to entertain. She got off to a rough start with my paternal grandfather John H McCloskey Sr. when he and my grandmother came early to dinner one day.It was in the first year of my mom and dad’s marriage. Flustered, my mom hurried as best as she could and after the grace, when my grandfather dug in, he remarked,” Carol, I have seen chickens hit on the road that were done better than this.” My mom was devastated but redeemed herself over the years with her entertaining and cooking for my demanding relatives. Enter the “ambulance.”
My mom had a habit of inviting all of the in-laws and the out-laws to our house for Thanksgiving and Christmas. When they became too old to drive themselves, I became the chauffeur with my sister in tow and we went and picked them all up in the Buick station wagon. Now my relatives were not shy about taking a “nip” or two before dinner and at their advancing age, sometimes it hit the fan. My mothers maiden aunts, Mamie and Lee Reynolds would chug the cocktails and begin the long, slow slide under the table to be set upright, back in their chairs by yours truly. They had a habit of looking for their eyeglasses during this pre-catatonic state which were neatly perched on the top of their heads. My paternal grandfather had a habit of talking in a loud voice which he thought was whispering. ” How is your drink mother?”, he said to my grandmother. When she said it was ok, he remarked, ” Kind of watered down if you ask me.” He liked a strong belt and I became an expert at plowing them with high test Manhattans.
The dinners over the years were fabulous and the rides home were stuff of legend. Molly and I would pour Mamie and Lee onto the couch back on Rankin Avenue and begin the extra routing to the North Side and Bellevue with whomever was a passenger at the time. My dad’s aunt Ann would insult her sister in law ( my paternal grandmother), and the donneybrook became vocal in the ambulance.
Soon the time came when the ambulance became the delivery vehicle because the old folks were too feeble to come out to the house any more. Molly and I would have a station wagon full of turkey dinners complete with all the trimmings and deliver them all day to the relatives, stopping briefly to converse with them and make them the obligatory Manahattans in their homes. My mother cooked for days in order to provide multiple dinners for Thanksgiving because she didn’t want anyone to be alone especially the in-laws, and the out-laws.
As I think back about my elderly relatives, I have many smiles because they truly were characters. When you age, your world tends to shrink and survival mode kicks in. It was amusing to see the view of the world from their perspective which was all about them. I was truly blessed to have the experience of driving them,being with them, and enjoying the spectacle that was the Holidays. I loved being with the old folks and was particularly close to my maternal grandmother and grandfather, Mary and John Reynolds.
The “ambulance” finally gave up the ghost one year and the deliveries dwindled as the old folks passed on to their eternal rewards. But, when I think of those days of huge meals at Pineview Drive and the subsequent deliveries of copious amounts of food in the old station wagon, I smile and want the tradition to continue. My wife Janet loves to cook and we are having some elderly friends of my mother in law’s over for dinner this Thanksgiving. I am looking forward to it because it reminds me of traditions that must continue in this country. Take care of the relatives, help to feed those who are not as fortunate by way of a donation, or volunteering. And pass on the importance of family to the younger generation who look to us for example. Enjoy the Holidays and thanks for reading.