Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Like Mother, Like Daughter

Earlier this week, while reading my favorite blogs, a post done by Terri Terri struck a chord with me. That's not really all that unusual because frequently Terri's posts ring very true in my mind but this one in particular, brought back many, many memories to me of someone in my family and her influence in my life.

Terri was writing about stopping by to visit her parents, having a bite to eat with them and the feelings it stirred in her about family. And it reminded me of this lady -my Grandpa's "baby" sister -my Great Aunt Elin!

This picture, taken in 1963, show Aunt Elin on the left, then Uncle Elmer (Grandpa's brother) and his other sister, Aunt Esther. But this other picture here below is how I tend to really remember Aunt Elin as this is her in HER domain, where she really was ultra-comfortable and where her work in this area also served to make any visitors to her home really happy to be visiting her.

Aunt Elin, in her kitchen, and as seen in this picture, about to open her refrigerator, I'm betting she was in the process there of doing what she was really famous for within our family -pulling together a feast for visitors and doing this without any prior notification that people would be coming by her house too! She truly had a knack for finding more food in her refrigerator, getting it all heated in a coordinated fashion (and with no microwave oven back in her day either) within a time span of 30-45 minutes, tops!

I've often wondered whether her refrigerator was deceptive in that it always seemed to have a never-ending variety of foods at the ready to be brought out, warmed, served -and so quickly too. This talent of hers never ceased to amaze me!

Aunt Elin and her husband, Uncle Andrew, lived in Indiana, PA when I was growing up -and until her passing. Because my Mom's oldest brother lived in Monroeville, PA and we generally went to his house at least twice a year -sometimes more than that -and Indiana was along the route we took to get to my Uncle's house, we always stopped by Aunt Elin's home to say hello, see how she and her husband were doing, get the latest news about her children and grandchildren -and any other relevant gossip about others within the family or circle of friends we shared with her.

And, upon entering in her home, the first thing Aunt Elin did -ALWAYS -after her usual welcome greetings to us, was that she would immediately head to the kitchen and put a pot of coffee on for everyone. After that, she started to dig in her refrigerator and then the magic took place.

It would usually take her about a half hour, sometimes a little bit longer than that but not much, to find all kinds of leftovers in that refrigerator and get them all ready to go on the dining room table and then, call us all to come out and have a bite to eat.

But let me tell you, it was like sitting down to a Smoregasbord when we did gather around her table and chow down! Meats, vegetables, home-made condiments (pickles, relishes, jellies and such), homemade Swedish breads and always, of course, an assortment of dessert items -cookies, pies or cake! As I mentioned above, I still marvel at how she managed to stow so much food and such variety too, in her refrigerator -which was no where near the size of refrigerators these days -and also, where she stored her other "goodies" -those yummy desserts and homemade breads that were always so abundant at her house too!

Anyone who entered into her house got the royal food treatment! And along with that, there was also so much chatter and laughter that went round and round in her home too. She paid attention to all her guests too -from the oldest right down to the youngest present, each was recognized and given attention that made you feel like you were the only person in her life at that point in time.

Aunt Elin was an absolutely fantastic cook, having learned her early skills from her mother, of course, but then too, when she was old enough to leave home and venture out into the working world, she had also been employed for some time as a cook for one of the wealthy families in Pittsburgh -probably in the late 19-teens and early 20's.

She had a great personality -and like her sister, Aunt Esther -also had a wonderful sense of humor too. Aunt Esther loved to joke with her siblings, nieces and nephews -as did Aunt Elin -but Aunt Esther was also a little more prone to thinking up pranks to pull on others in the family too and no one was safe around her if she zeroed in on some joke to pull on someone. Being around both of these great aunts was always not just filling with respect to one's stomach and physical needs, but also so filled with laughter and fun.

Aunt Elin could easily have passed too for a sterotypical Jewish mother/grandmother as well since once everyone was seated around the dining room table, she rarely sat down but instead, circled the table, occasionally picking up a dish or bowl and handing it to you with instructions of "Here, try this!" or especially in the case of children present, it wasn't unusual for her to give a tap on the head or gentle shove on the shoulder and the command of "Eat, eat!"

Her presence though is still felt to this day though at many family gatherings because her cooking prowess along with her ability to make anyone and everyone always feel comfortable in her home has been passed down to her daughter, Arline and also, to Arline's daughter, Sandy. If you were to stop at Arline's home in Indiana -or Sandy's too -odds are the first thing either of them would do -after saying "Hello" would be to head to the kitchen and put on a fresh pot of coffee and then, start the raiding of the refrigerator within minutes after that!

Here's a picture taken at Aunt Elin's daughter Arline's house at Christmas a couple years ago and sent to me by Arline's brother, Paul -the tall gentleman on the far right in this photo. The people here are from left to right, back row -Joyce (daughter of Arline's brother, Carl), Sandy (Arline's daughter,) Eleanor (Carl's wife) either Rodney or Dale (son of Carl and Eleanor) and her brother, Paul. In front -Melda (Paul's wife) and then, my cousin, Arline! Arline just turned 81 this past May and looks the same today as she did a few years ago when this photo was taken. If you look a little closer too at this picture and focus on Arline's daughter, Sandy and then go up and look at the pictures of Aunt Elin -Sandy's grandmother -you'll see a very strong resemblance there too because Sandy looks very much like her grandmother as well as having many other characterisitics of Aunt Elin -just as her own mother has.

My kids and I have stayed very close to Arline and her family over the years. I have a recipe too that another cousin of ours gave me for Swedish Limpa Rye bread -a long-time family favorite item -which I bake from time to time and I'm hoping some day that Mandy -or maybe my other daughter, Carrie -will learn to bake bread too and will carry on the family tradition and love for this very special bread. The recipe I'd be willing to bet came to Arline via her mother and most likely was passed on to Aunt Elin from her mother -my great-grandmother. Who knows but maybe sometime in years to come, long after I've passed through some descendant of mine may be baking this bread too and not just keeping a Swedish traditional food alive but bring other ancestors of mine/ours to dine at their table too in doing that.

And on yet another note -but in a slightly different direction -my daughter Mandy decided yesterday to follow in my footsteps too a little more too now! How'd that happen, you ask? Well, back in June of 1973, about two months before my son was born, I signed up to become an Avon Representative and spent over 18 years selling those products to family and friends and Mandy took that step yesterday as she thinks it might just provide a means for her to earn a little extra money but also to give her hours more conducive to her work here at home with Maya and Kurtis along with giving her the opportunity -as it did for me over those years -of getting to know more people in the community and forging even more great friendships that way too!

Now, excuse me but I've got to go fix supper and look through the current Avon brochures and decide which items I really need to purchase and which ones will go on my wish list for purchase in the near future. Hopefully, Mandy will give me a discount too -don't 'cha think?


Smalltown RN said...

Well I never grew up with any aunties or uncles as my parents were immigrants and my mom's family were all in England and my dad was an only child. But when my parents did immigrant to Canada on the train from Montreal to Vancouver they met my aunty Mary and Uncle Karl...they were taking the train from Winnipeg to Vancouver...that was July 1 1953 Canada day...they were just friend mom and dad met on the train....and remained friends until my parents passed...Aunty Mary and Uncle Karl...are truly like family to us....and she was like your aunt she was always able to bring a feast together at a drop of a hat....I always thought it to be such an art...she could bake as well....she made these simple treats called chocolate mountains....and she always brought them to gatherings or had them at her place....she new how much we all loved them...then one year she gave my sisters and I all the know I have made them but they just arent the same as having Aunty Mary's Chocolate mountains.....funny the things that we remember...

Vic Grace said...

Hospitality like that is a gift. I freak out if I know someone is coming for a meal let alone someone dropping by. I sold cosmetics for a while when putting my previous husband through school, it was fun.

terri said...

Your memories make me miss my grandma. She could do magic in the kitchen too and seemed to have a neverending supply of foods and desserts too. I think I'm going to make one of her favorite meals this weekend - stewed chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy. Yum!

I rarely invite guests over. Seems like too much extra work, but now after reading your post, I realize how much that togetherness meant to us.

Good for Mandy, selling Avon. I hope she builds up a huge clientelle. I may have to place mail orders with her! I have a friend who used to sell Avon but I think she gave it up. I'm out of the facial cream I love so much and not sure where to order from!