Holiday Cheer Comes Full Circle

            She had ordered two pies from the Cushman Bakery, a home delivery service that came once a week bringing pastries and breads I can still vividly remember. Pulling up to Ma’s kitchen door, the uniformed driver didn’t want to hand two pies to a little squirt.

            “Go get you mommy, little girl,” he said with a jolly chuckle.

            I can’t remember this gentleman’s name, but I clearly remember the delicious, yeasty aroma that oozed out into the surrounding atmosphere. I could have happily eaten the air around me.

            It was Christmastime. The pumpkin and mincemeat pies, along with plum pudding (from a can of course), would be the finale of this day. It was the 1950s, and women were embracing all modern conveniences when it came to cooking, including home delivery of bakery goodies.

            Ma could have made pies from scratch. She had all the tools, including a meat grinder. She knew the techniques. But with so many other chores waiting for her attention, she could trust that the Cushman pies would be appreciated possibly more than any effort on her part. And it was a time to learn kitchen skills.

            I learned how to peel potatoes and carrots, using old kitchen utensils and watching my mother’s hands in action. It was important that the blade be positioned just under the potato skin to ensure that the white flesh wasn’t cut away. The carrot peeler was very old, but the thin blades perfectly removed the carrot peels. Lessons in cutting the vegetables into mouth-sized pieces would come in later years.

            Five pounds of potatoes, two pounds of carrots, half a gallon of gravy, two cans of cranberry sauce and those pies, it was hard to contain my excited, tiny body. There would be leftovers from our traditional meal of turkey and gravy with all the fixings. Yes, there had been a few gifts, new PJ’s, new socks, a stocking filled with fruits and nuts. Better than the Thanksgiving Day meal, the Christmas Day feast outshone all that.

            Although my mother had a sister living very close by and a brother in the neighboring town, their large families precluded them from visiting. No one had a car large enough to hold those tribe members. Nor were we invited to their holiday feasts.

            Whatever the reason, the three siblings never shared a holiday meal together. A cousin had said of those times that their branch was struggling to feed their family of eight, so that’s why invitations were never forthcoming. As for my mother, she never opened her doors either except to a bachelor brother. Thus, our Christmas was a quiet affair.

            When I moved to Mattapoisett with my new husband 32 years ago, we opened our doors to everyone. He had come from a tradition of large, family gatherings, and I longed for them. Shoulder to shoulder, we cleaned the house and decorated the place. I planned grocery lists, and he shopped. I cooked; he washed the dishes.

            Platters of food would be set out buffet style, while my son played the piano in the background, a medley of old-time carols. It would take two days to clean up afterwards, but we didn’t care. He enjoyed the family gatherings, and I was in my hosting glory.

            In those years when my parents were still here, they loved coming over to participate in a holiday feast, seeing grandchildren and hugging everyone in sight. Those gatherings brought a lot of joy to a lot of people, including me.

            Things have come full circle. We no longer labor over holiday house cleaning, we no longer decorate the place or cook massive bowls of mashed potatoes and gallons of gravy, leaving the door wide open to all. We are now invited to our son’s home, bringing along a platter of deviled eggs and a baking dish filled with my popular stuffing. We are the old folks, sitting side by side on the sofa, thumbing through family photo albums, sighing over baby pictures of 50-year-old children and remembering when.

This Mattapoisett Life

By Marilou Newell

Leave A Comment...