He was my Mother's brother. In the past four years, we have lost three members of my Mom's family. My grandfather died a long time ago. So, all that's left in this family now are my two aunts, one of whom had us all over for dinner this evening.
I've talked about my Polish grandmother before. I live in her house now. I've been trying to recreate her pierogies. I still miss her.
As I was at my aunt's tonight, there were so many familiar...things. My aunt bought chocolate bars for all the kids--just like my Mom would have done. She also remembered that Jack likes mint chocolate. She had a piece of cake sliced, wrapped, and on a paper plate for me to take home, because it's my favourite coconut cake--like my Mom would have done.
We sat and reminisced about my uncle: his dry wit, his notorious lack of patience, that crazy little sport car he had with NO leg room for anyone in the back seat. There were lots of photos, from fairly recent all the way back to my brother and I being small kids, to the old black and white photos when my Mother and her family were young.
But what really grabbed me was the food.
When all the food was set out, and we were invited to come and eat, I was delighted, and almost relieved in a strange way. The food smelled Polish. How can I describe it? My aunt made fried chicken, and potato salad, and a cucumber and tomato salad, and sausages and peppers and cabbage rolls. And it all just smelled Polish.
There is a certain ineffable quality to the food I grew up with at special occasions and when we came to Grandma's house. It was the Christmas dinner table all set. It was Grandma's house. It was the smell of cooked cabbage and onions fried in butter, and something pickled and sour. It was something delicious that took a long time to make. Something special that most other families weren't lucky enough to eat.
I haven't had cabbage rolls in a long time. I've never made them myself yet. I'm going to have to learn.
I don't know. There are people in my life who are disappearing now. I'm old enough. It's that circle of life. When only my brother and sister and I are left, where will that intangible quality of "Polish" go?
Tonight, as we remembered my Uncle, those feelings of the past and the present were all very close together, mingled and woven through with that mysterious smell of family.