Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Five Questions -- Family

Juliana smith, at the 24/7 Family History Circle blog, has been providing five questions to post memories about in honor of Family History Month. This week’s topic is family. I'm assuming that these questions pertain to my childhood and young adult years:

1) How has a member of your family influenced you?

There are many ways for someone to influence another person - through words of advice, wisdom or warnings; or through actions and deeds - being a good (or bad) example.

My mother was a wonderful example of unconditional love and support, and of the value of an education. My father was a strong, silent type who rarely had a good word for us kids - I learned that I didn't want to be that kind of father. My grandfather was a model of a quiet, confident, hard working and smart man who encouraged me constantly. My grandmother was nurturing, I loved being with her.

2) How often did you see extended family (e.g., aunts, uncles, cousins), and what was it like when you all got together?

My father's mother, brothers and sisters and almost all of his cousins were in Massachusetts, and we were in San Diego 2,500 miles away. I met my grandmother Seaver once, in 1959 when she came with my dad's sister Evelyn (Seaver) Wood, Evelyn's husband, Walter Wood, and Evelyn's granddaughter, Diana. We had a fun time with Diana, who was our age. In the 1960's, my father's sister, Geraldine Seaver, came from Massachusetts with a friend to visit. I took business trips twice in the late 1960's to Boston, stayed with Aunt Gerry, and visited family in Leominster and got to know my aunts, uncles and cousins. My dad's brother and other sisters eventually came to visit us in San Diego. My father never went back to Massachusetts, and was jealous of us (myself, wife and children) for going in 1982 and having a wonderful time.

My dad's aunt Emily (Richmond) Taylor lived in San Diego with her daughter, Dorothy, and her husband and daughter. We always visited them on the 4th of July and at Christmas time.

My mother was an only child of only children, but there were several great aunts and uncles and second cousins in the Los Angeles area. When I was small, they would come visit, but I don't remember which ones they were or when they came. I do remember, as a young boy of 5 or 6, having to kiss these old people with white hair (and mustaches?) sitting on the couch in our living room.

3) What kind of traditions did/does your family observe? Were there special ways you celebrated birthdays? Holidays?

Birthdays were usually a barbecue in the back yard patio, with a ping pong game or two and finally cake and ice cream. We always played word games or board games after it got dark.

We usually went to my grandparents home on Point Loma for Thanksgiving and Christmas. We always had roast turkey, mashed potatoes, peas for dinner, and pumpkin pie and ice cream for dessert. One tradition we had, which started when we were boys, was to have a post-dinner game of "toss the pea in the glass" - each person playing would try to do this across the table and we would keep score. My dad and brothers and I always played, but my mom always hated it - it seemed uncouth to throw food. We eventually graduated to tossing wadded up napkins instead of peas. My brothers and daughters (and their hubbies) now play this at Christmas in honor of my folks, with much laughter and challenges.

4) Did your family have pets?

We always had cats. Our house was between two busy streets, so most of the cats didn't last too long. But there were always cats around - we would adopt one that would eat in the house and sleep with us for awhile, but they always wanted to go hunt outside. Squash! The longest lived was named Rootie-Toot-Toot, whose mother was Tootie. They were gray semi-Persian breed, and were happy to be petted, talked to and chased around.

5) What foods did your family enjoy? Was there a special dish that was always on the table at family get-togethers?

When we went to Aunt Emily's house, Dorothy would always fix gourmet meals. We always had to ask what things were, and were ordered to try them. We rarely liked it. Where was the good stuff - meat, potatoes and vegetables?

I grew up not eating salad, sauces, dressings, shellfish, and rare meat. There were always fruit, berries, vegetables in the house for growing boys. Breakfast was cereal or shredded wheat, and sometimes scrambled eggs and bacon. We sometimes had fried egg sandwiches for lunch on weekends. My mother made what she called "vermicelli" at dinner - a white sauce over toast with grated egg yolk over it. When we had steak, which was only rarely, it was cooked well done, as were hamburgers.

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