Saying Goodbye, in Pictures and a Recipe

My great-aunt Anna has made an agreement with a buyer and will likely sell her house before the end of the summer. She’s lived alone in this house for almost four years now, and has recovered from a stroke and knee surgery in the past two years. She’s moving to an apartment in a retirement community and won’t have to worry about maintenance and safety. I pray that she’ll have many happy, healthy years there.

The places where you spend your childhood stay with you for a long time. This is the last house that I associate with the days when I was under 10; both my grandmothers have passed away and their homes have been sold, and my parents moved out of our childhood home four years ago. They are just houses, but they hold many memories for me.

I spent a large, happy chunk of my childhood in this house. When we were kids, every Saturday morning we’d come here after my sister’s allergy shot. We’d visit with Grandpa (our great-grandfather), our great-uncle James, and our great-aunts Rose and Anna. Rose would be finishing up the vacuuming when we got there. Anna would make pancakes if it was early, or tuna-fish sandwiches if it was closer to lunchtime. We’d hang out in the family room playing “Trouble” and watching “Scooby Doo,” “Josie and the Pussycats,” and “The Jetsons.” Grandpa would tell us stories and teach us to sing “Goodbye My Coney Island Baby” and the refrain to “Marching through Georgia.” He’s the reason I still love to hear barbershop quartets.

On nice days, we’d play in the backyard under the big pine trees. Every summer there would be a big family picnic back here. The volleyball net would stretch from the edge of the trees to the patio. Picnic tables were under the trees, in the shade.

We figured out that you could write your name, or messages, in the pile on the living room carpet. Rose never liked when we did that, but we did it anyway. Sometimes we’d vault over the back of the sofa into the dining room. We’d look at the big picture of an autumn scene that always hung over the back of the couch. There was a little organ tucked near the stairs and we’d pick out some tunes on it. I always liked practicing my beginner’s piano lesson on that organ.

In this kitchen, there was always something cold for kids to drink, in an Archie glass. No plastic cups in this house–we used glasses and never broke one. (If Anna ever decides to give away those glasses, you can bet there will be at least five nieces and nephews fighting over them). In this kitchen, we learned to sing “Zippity-Doo-Dah” and other happy songs. In this kitchen, Anna made her famous vegetable soup and fabulous Thanksgiving dinners. Only real butter was served, and it was always soft because it was never put in the refrigerator. I think they went through a stick of butter in less than a day, so it didn’t have time to go bad!

Here’s the recipe for Harrington Tuna, otherwise known as Nostalgia on a Plate:
1 can solid white tuna
Miracle whip
Soft butter
Wonder bread

Mix tuna with miracle whip. Spread softened butter generously on two slices of bread. Add tuna and cut on the diagonal.

After lunch you can have two Hydrox cookies for dessert. Don’t fight with your brother and sister over who gets the Jughead glass. There are enough Archie glasses to go around.

Good times.

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