It’s autumn on Oleander Avenue. I leave the leaves to set the table. My turn, I know by heart, no need for reminders. Upon opening the back door, the distinct aromas of kielbasa and sweet sauerkraut engulf me in a blanket of smells. I smile as I enter the warmth of the kitchen, lift the cover from the large pot and allow the steam to moisten my face. Oh so much better than liver and onions! Placing the lid back on, it’s time to begin “setting the table,” the earliest and easiest task of the nightly household chores. For once completed, I’m free for the evening.
I begin my work. It’s quiet yet except for the dull placement of plates and the tinkling of silverware on laminate. On tiptoes I reach for the eight golden milk goblets. I notice how their tarnished tin compliments the leaf pattern of the chipped plates as I place them in their proper places. Next, with the glass milk gallon steady on my hip, I carefully pour its white richness into the pitcher. My thin arms shake from the weight of the milk and worry, for an occurrence of spilling means certain banishment to one’s room for the night. As I slip the gallon back into the refrigerator, my young mind relaxes and reviews its mental checklist.
The final task of pulling the chairs from their resting spots along the walls completes the sphere around the dwarfed table. The clock above the sink assures me the others will be arriving soon. Outside, the street lights flicker and dinner bells ring alerting the others to race towards home.
Soon bodies pile in, invading the quiet warmness of the kitchen with cold blasts and chaos. As the noise levels soar, I slip into my seat among the commotion, completing the circle on the right-handed side, middle seat. After grace, the hurried affair of sausage distribution gets underway to outstretched arms. I glance at my ration, enough to calm my stomach’s subtle gnawing. Elbow to elbow, we attack our meals as the mixture of voices and laughter swell and swirl around the circle until we’ve done it again.
We’ve set off a milk eruption from Kathleen’s nose. We all laugh harder as the precious milk bubbles and flows from her nostrils, but only I fall victim to her fork. I look down at the four indents that will swell until well after dinner and still giggle. For completed chores, kielbasa and sauerkraut and a milk-snorting sister make for me the finest of meals and memories.