The things that made growing up that much better

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We all have those memories growing up that we completely overlooked as nondescript activities we would typically chalk up to every-day life. In hindsight, it was those mundane occurrences that made our childhood and teen years so much better.

Do you remember some of these things? Or something similar?

* Hovering near the mixing bowl when mom was baking a cake or brownies so that you could lick the leftover cake batter off the beaters or the spatula. This became a first-come, first-served privilege amongst my siblings, who were as keen on licking up the batter as I was.

* Dad opening a can of beer at the dinner table, but before he took a sip – because our collective eyes were making a request – he poured a small swallow into the bottom of our cup.  I will say this, the leftover beer residue did not mix well with 1 percent milk.

* Nina’s Pizza on Thursdays.  Not every Thursday, but every once in a while because mom deserved a night off from kitchen duty.

* Going out to eat on a whim. As an adult and parent of many kids, I know how much it costs to feed a big family at a restaurant. I can only surmise, growing up in a family of six, that my parents’ checkbook balance must have looked good on those rare occasions.

* Living out in the country with not many neighbors, no cable television, and before the age of video games and the Internet, finding something interesting and fun to do. That despite the reality that there wasn’t much to do — except watch more reruns of Gilligan’s Island or I Dream of Jeannie.

* Mowing the lawn. Really? Yes.  While dad and I were out mowing our acre of lawn, a 2- to 2 1/2-hour job, mom used that as a cue to put out bottles of water in the sun with tea bags steeping under the hot sun. Sometimes mom sped up the process by starting the tea with warm water. Regardless, after two hours of mowing around trees and up and down the hilly terrain, there wasn’t a much better thirst quencher than freshly brewed sun tea.

* This one is personal to me:  Pulling all-day shifts at the golf course. Up until my senior year of high school, when my mom changed jobs and I started to work more at my part-time job, I used to live at the golf course.   Every day it wasn’t raining or there wasn’t a tournament scheduled, I would get up early with my mother so she could drop me off at the golf course before she went to work. I would pack my lunch for a 7:45 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. day at “my office.”

* Popcorn, made the old-fashioned way.  I can’t count the number of times mom uttered the well-timed suggestion of making popcorn when we were all feeling peckish between dinner and bed time.  Most of the time mom made the popcorn, but occasionally it was me or one of my three sisters who embarked on this work-intensive task. Little bit of oil at the bottom of the pan, the dispersing of the kernels, and a watchful eye along with the occasional vigorous shake of the pan were components of a well executed pop. The trick was the get as many kernels popped as possible with a minimum of burned ones.  Microwave popcorn or using an air-popping machine? Too easy.

* Making the stuffing on the morning of Thanksgiving. Okay, so I didn’t actually make the stuffing. But I did get to shred up a full loaf of bread in the blender. Call me the stuffing starter, and mom always gave me credit for assisting on the stuffing preparation.  Until a few years ago, I had no idea what happened to the stuffing after I blended up the bread crumbs. I just know it tasted awesome.

* Sunday dinner – which was more like a late lunch – with the elders of our family tree. My parents were old-school, and regularly entertained aunts, uncles, and close friends of the family for the “big meal” on Sunday afternoon. True to growing up in a family with deep Italian roots, even if older generation showed up unexpectedly just before serving time, my mom had prepared enough food to fill a couple more plates.

Perhaps you have special memories unique to your own family.

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