A Moment in My Life – Thursday, October 8, 2020
“Was I there?” came up a lot during the time my sisters and I visited together. It was a rare moment when my two sisters volunteered, out of nowhere, their recollection of events that took place when we were kids. My younger sister, Susie, started it off by remembering the homemade oatmeal my mother used to make for our breakfasts. She did? That was news to me. I don’t remember ever having oatmeal growing up. Susie reminisced the way Mommy added the eggs on top, and the evaporated milk then the condensed milk in Mommy’s recipe. Eggs? There were eggs in oatmeal? Evaporated milk? And, condensed milk, too? My stomach was churning inside from the richness. My older sister, Menie, chimed in with her version that differed from Susie’s. She uses whole milk instead. Whole milk? I virtually had a dairy-intoleration attack from hearing them talk. Their renditions of Mommy’s recipe may differ, but the two of them agree this was comfort food, and that they both made it for their families.
Both sisters recalled our parents making breakfasts for us every day. I told them that I remembered having breakfast on occasion and only on the weekends. We all remembered Daddy sometimes making waffles on the weekends. I shared that I remember this one Saturday vividly when Mommy made pancakes. Susie interjected that she didn’t remember Mommy ever making pancakes. Menie agreed that she didn’t remember Mommy making pancakes, only Daddy making waffles. Then she asked, “Was I there?” Good question. I don’t know where everybody was.
In my memory, there was only Mommy and me in the kitchen. I was seated at the table, set for the family breakfast, by myself. Mommy brought to the table a plate with a stack of pancakes on it and placed it right in front of me. Being naïve and timid, I mumbled, “That’s too much for me.”
Mother put me in my place with, “NOT ALL FOR YOU!” And this was the only breakfast memory I had to contribute to our childhood breakfast memories.
Menie reminisced that Daddy used to go to Chinatown first thing in the mornings and bought Susie’s favorite buns and noodles home for breakfast before taking us to school. Susie beat me to saying, “Was I there? I don’t remember this.” Me, neither. Really? Daddy did that? It sounds like something Daddy would do, and I wish I remembered this sweet memory, but I don’t. Instead of that, I shared that I remember when we lived on Hyde Street, Daddy would take us on the cable car, while it was still dark out, and dropped us off at Auntie’s apartment on Stockton Street across from St. Mary’s Chinese Catholic School, and we sat in her kitchen, while Auntie’s family slept. Then close to time, we left and went to school at Commodore Stockton with no breakfast. Menie said, “I don’t remember that. Was I there?”
Isn’t it interesting how three sisters growing up in the same home would each have such compellingly different memories? The commonality was the refrain, “Was I there?” My sisters didn’t talk about our pasts, but for whatever reason, they did this time, and I’m grateful. Now we can begin fitting the puzzle pieces into the blank puzzle board. It’ll take time, but it will be worth it when we figure out the answer to the question, “Was I there?” and more.