Thursday, October 25, 2007
Posted by Thomas MacEntee
In honor of Family History Month, the 24/7 Family History Circle site has listed a set of "challenges" to assist people in writing their own personal history.
The fourth topic is Family.
How has a member of your family influenced you?
The greatest influence has been my mother. She raised me and my younger brother under difficult and challenging circumstances in the 1970s: newly divorced, little or not credit, little or no job experience. Mom was resourceful and ambitious - she managed to find good, well paying jobs, buy a house and take care of several elderly family members.
How often did you see extended family (e.g., aunts, uncles, cousins), and what was it like when you all got together?
It seems like I saw aunts, uncles and cousins on my mother's side of the family weekly. It helped that we all lived within 100 miles of each other in New York and New Jersey. Also, my mother had 7 sisters and 4 brothers - and I had 41 first cousins on my mother's side. As in all big families, there were times when people didn't get along but for the most part, we always had fun and crazy times when we got together.
What kind of traditions did/does your family observe?
Were there special ways you celebrated birthdays? Holidays? We celebrating most of the standard Roman Catholic and American holidays such as Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas etc. Christmas was a challenge since it is also my birthday - but Mom always made sure I had separate birthday gifts wrapped in birthday paper and a party on Christmas night with birthday cake.
About 15 years ago Mom and her sisters started what they called the "Sisters Thing" - that's actually what they called it. All 8 of them would gather at a restaurant like Red Lobster or Olive Garden, be wacky enough to almost get thrown out, and then end up at someone's house playing cards and dice until 4:00 am. This happened every May (they usually went down to Wildwood, New Jersey) and every October.
Did your family have pets?
We has a cat that was more like a dog -Squeaky. He didn't meow, he squeaked. A blue point Himalayan that weighed almost 22 pounds!
What foods did you family enjoy? Was there a special dish that was always on the table at family get-togethers?
Well besides not having raisins in baked goods (see What DNA Can't Explain below), we had a great Jewish bakery in town, Katz's Bakery. I remember real bagels (boiled in sugar water first, then baked), bialys, real New York cheesecake, etc. The old Katz's Bakery is now the Liberty Museum & Arts Center.
Mom was a great cook - we had Piggies in a Blanket (a pickle wrapped in bacon then wrapped in a strip of steak and braised in a tomato beef broth), Lemon Meringue pie, and more but as time went on Mom loved it when I cooked since I was much more adventurous.
And although I never had them, Mom and her sister used to rave about Parlays, a candy made by Loft's in the Bronx. I guess they don't make them anymore, so I can't even describe what they are like.
Photo: Jacqueline Austin MacEntee holding me, Thomas MacEntee, age 3 months. March 1963.