Dinner at Chez Mom

I am five years old and am returning from another day in First Grade. The bus stops outside my house. My legs are too short to use the steps properly so I jump from the bottom step to the sidewalk. My mom is outside waiting for me with Linda, my friend Johanna’s mom who lives next door. Running inside, I take off my coat and Buster Brown shoes and head straight for the television.

I sit down at the table and she pours me a big cup of Kool-aid Tropical punch and a glass of Tab for herself and I tell her about my day. Today was mostly good, we got to have Silent Reading in the morning, and the school lunch was hamburgers. I didn’t like when Carole and I were riding on the seesaw and she jumped off when I was all the way at the top. I got a bloody lip and had to go see the school nurse. My mom listens intently, wafting the smoke from her cigarette away from my face whenever it goes in my direction.

At 4PM it’s time for Sesame Street and for the next hour I’ll be enjoying learning more reading, some math, and even a little Spanish.  Sometimes they sing songs to help me learn letters and numbers that I already know. I hear my mom singing from the kitchen when her favourites come on.

Next up is Mister Rogers Neighbourhood. This man arrives in my house at least two hours before my own father arrives home from work as a US Army recruiter. Mister Rogers is always really happy to see me and always tells me he’s proud of me. 

When The Electric Company comes on at 5:30, my mom comes in to the room with a piece of folded orange construction paper. On it, written in crayon, there are big block letters:

Fish Sticks
French Fries or Tater Tots
Tartar Sauce OR Ketchup
Green Beans or Corn
Kool-Aid or Water

I read the menu she’s made aloud to her, proud at how easy it felt. Then I tell her my dinner choices. She goes back into the kitchen to make dinner. Thirty minutes later she’s back in the living room and places a large cutting board across the arms of my chair and sets my plate down on it just in time to watch Zoom.  

I finish my dinner just as my dad walks in the door.

11 thoughts on “Dinner at Chez Mom

    1. Thanks! This one was an easy one, though. It was my routine for a long time. I might not remember specific days exactly but some things stick out in my mind.

      I was really surprised to find the house where this took place is not only still there, there are now photos of it online. It was so cool to travel back there. It has been updated a little but not so much. The kitchen looks almost the same. The shelves in the one area between two rooms are the same as they were when I was there in 1976. We had a budgie, Skippy, whose cage was on the one on the right side. https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/95-Commonwealth-Ave-Attleboro-MA-02703/55960296_zpid/?mmlb=g,9

      Such a gift to be able to visit my old house like that!

      1. For sure – I’ve lived a lot of places but so far this is the only one I’ve found interior photos of. And it was so nice that it had barely changed at all. I don’t know about Norway or India but here the trend lately has been to renovate places completely – knock down walls, remove everything and basically build a new interior. Or sometimes in the city they’ll demolish a small bungalow and replace it with a giant house. It’s kind of sad. Three of us and a dog lived in that house which is about 1/2 to 1/3 the size of homes that families our size are wanting now.

      2. I think the trend is similar. I don’t think I will ever be able to see the houses I lived online 🙂
        Sadly we don’t have photographs of them either.
        Have a great Sunday.

  1. Ohmygosh what great memories. From age 5-8 I can remember dinner on a TV tray while watching the Flintstones, but after we moved to Arizona we had a little black & white TV in the kitchen so, although we ate ALL our meals in front of the TV, we no longer ate dinner in front of the color TV in the living room.

    My after school / before dinner TV watching was Gilligan’s Island and Andy Griffith, I think.

    I still love me some fish sticks and tater tots!

    1. Oh yes! I had the same. As I got older the 4PM time slot had Gilligan’s Island for a while, and then later Star Trek and so I moved on from my PBS shows.

      Some of my favourite meals were served on TV Trays. Such good times. 🙂

      And me too – I won’t have them often but all those foods from my childhood still taste delicious!

  2. Television certainly dominated your life as it seems to have done for so many your age. It was a very small part of my childhood which makes for a distinct generational gap sometimes.

  3. Love love love your post! Such wonderful memories.

    Your day could actually be one of my days, except that I would have been about 7 or 8 (I watched Sesame St & Electric Company till I was a young teen, plus I don’t remember much from when I was 5).

    I just watched A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood with Tom Hanks – it was a very cleverly told story with Fred Rogers. I don’t remember if I watched Mister Roger’s Neighbourhood growing up. Maybe we didn’t get it in Singapore.

    1. How interesting – we were so far apart geographically and yet our shared experience was very similar. I also remember very little from age 5 – but a few things stick out and this is definitely one of them.

      I have to see that movie. I’d say Fred Rogers is one of the most influential people in my life – possibly as much as my own family – in terms of my outlook on the world and how I view/treat others. These dinners in front of the TV may not have seemed like much, but between Sesame Street and Mister Rogers, it defined how I looked at diversity, how to treat others, the benefits of cities, cooperation and looking out for one another. I’m not sure I’d be who I am without them.

      1. I hear you Todd! Isn’t amazing how universal some experiences are?

        Sesame Street definitely was a shaping force for much of my childhood. And when my kids came along, I started watching the new episodes. A long long relationship.

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