It was a surprise, a treat, and a strategy although as a kid at the time, I felt it was a trick and I had been treated – having breakfast for dinner.
Now I understand, the cupboard was nearly bare; there was only a package of something frozen solid in the freezer; and the check was two days away. What’s a mother to do? Come up with some new. Make what’s on hand do.
There were eggs. There was bacon grease, a bit of butter. Once, I remember, there was a block of government cheese. Crusts and odd slices of bread were thawed out or sometimes some hot water cornbread or biscuits would be made. So dinner was a little of this, a little of that. Eggs scrambled with cheese in bacon grease. Cinnamon and sugar sprinkled on toast. Applesauce made from apples in the root cellar. There might have been a can of spam or a little bologna – one slice for each of us.
I was excited. Mom was breaking the rules, making breakfast for dinner. Pancakes? What?! Turning the day upside down. If you have breakfast for dinner who knew what else might happen that didn’t usually happen? (Like Daddy bringing a bag of White Castles home and waking the kids up to feast.)
As an adult, you realize that the aunt or grandmother didn’t just happen by with a bag of food because they’d run into a good sale. You remember seeing a bill being slipped into a housecoat pocket during the greeting hug. The women of the family looked out for each other. If they saw a need they would fill it. If they hadn’t heard from each other, they would come on by unannounced, sending us kids out to play or giving us a few coins to get candy from the corner store while they discussed grown-up things.
I learned from my mother how to stretch, make a way from little, and keep the kids separate most of the time from adult bizness. As an adult, I faced times when ends didn’t mean, money was tight, pride was high, and I wasn’t going to tell anyone I needed anything – physical distance helped disguise need from my family.
I eventually learned to keep a budget. I finally got a credit card. I learned to shop on the sale aisles in the store with my daughter becoming the coupon champion. Did you know that onions, green, pepper, and celery make everything taste better? Casseroles are your friend – where a little bit of meat goes a long way. Carrots are always cheap. As was tuna. There were certain places where your money would stretch further including the sales at the church up on the hill in Dorchester (whose name escapes me now) that had canned goods for a quarter.
Keep it moving. Pay day is near. A better salary will come. You can take a second job and, if you’re lucky, it’ll be a Saturday youth program that you can also bring your kids to.
We got by. Thank you, Mom, for showing me the way. Thank you for those boxes of clothes and gifts for the kids and the occasional cash. Thank you, grandmother for the same. Thank you, Rosa, for sharing the early journey of being young parents far from home. Thank you Pattie, for being there for most of the way. We leaned on each other and we learned to do better and our kids knew they were loved. They are all doing well. Our sacrifices helped them do more, better, and quicker. Breakfast for dinner was a winner…a quiet splendor.
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I wish I could sew like my mother.
This is a warm remembrance of how our mothers shared life sustaining wisdom while nurturing and protecting us. It reminds me of a James Baldwin quote, “Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.” One of the treasures of growing up is the understanding that dawns about what we saw our mothers do that brought us joy. Brilliant. Thank you.
When something touches me to write, I never know how it will land. I so appreciate your words that show me it landed well. Thanks for the quote by Mr. Baldwin. It’s funny how with each day, I appreciate my Mom and my grandmother, and many of the other women who mothered me for their guidance. They didn’t break, they rarely even took a break, but they took care of us, often in circumstances that were untenable. I never felt insecure as a child. Thanks for taking time to read and comment. It is much appreciated.
I love this one!
I’m glad you love it. I would have even loved your “liking” it. lol. Thanks for taking the time to read.
Growing up was hard when you didn’t see food in the fridge. I remember walking to the post office and distribution center on Columbus Ave (which is now the Reggie Lewis Center) from Mission Hill, waiting, hoping they didn’t run out of that good, ol’ chopped meat and cheese. Going through those times more than I can count impacted my relationship with food. Right to this day, I shop for a family of 2 but my cart looks like I have 5 at home. It has been hard to shake the food insecurity I feel even though God has Blessed us to have. I’m working on it but it became a part of my DNA from the age of 8 to now, a woman of 60. I would do the Walk for Hunger even if my feet hurt because that is a feeling I didn’t want others, especially children, to feel. I can’t save them all but if I could cook and feed a bunch, I would do it. Gladly. Thank you Ms. Candy for always knowing what to write so it touches others.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read my post and leave your comments and memories. Food insecurity follows you all your life. I like to feed people and have shared food from my pantry and freezer to friends many times over the years. I donate to places that provide food for people regularly. Take care and keep on being generous.