The Family’s Sunday Dinner

family dinnerSitting down to Sunday dinner with your family is as American as the red, white, and blue; mom; and apple pie. And so it is with the Pasniewski household in the 1950s. Everyone who lives within driving distance congregates at Tomas’ and Marian’s house. Andy’s family, Grandma and Grandpa Dombroski arrive with Aunt Mary and Uncle Stanly, and friends like Mike, usually show up. Often, the women bring something to share like Aunt Mary’s garlic laced pickled beets, grandma’s chow chow, or Ellen’s chocolate-marble coconut-frosted cake.

Celina can’t imagine Sundays any other way. She’d tell you that she had been taking part in these gatherings as long as she can remember and loves hearing all the people talking at once at these get togethers. She is a twenty something, and when the family arrives home from church late in the morning, she joins her mother in the preparation of the midafternoon meal. They start as soon as she and Marian change into more comfortable clothes. Celina’s job is to take orders from her mother who’s the undisputed monarch of the kitchen.  Not even Tomas, the head of the house, can usurp her authority in this domain

The coal stove is stoked and the embers in the firebox are red hot. Gingerly, Marian places the chicken, they have breaded, into a huge cast iron frying pan filled with hot oil. The drumsticks, thighs, and breast pieces sizzle and brown before being placed in a large baking dish that Marian slips it into the oven next to a large blue granite roaster filled with halupki. The fragrance soon fills the house. Celina is dispatched to peel potatoes, and snap green beans, and husk corn. It’s July and the chores are not always easy. But she enjoys preparing the fruit laden jello for the children.

She wonders if she will ever have a special someone to invite to Sunday dinner.  She’s talked it over with Patti, her best friend from work, often enough. They both have dreams of the most handsome and perfect man coming into their lives. Celina, being more practical than Patti, doubts that it will happen according to their fantasies. She dawdles and sighs and Marian demands that she stop daydreaming and finish slicing the bread, since the relatives will be coming at any minute.

Family members arrive, and greet each other with traditional old-country signs of hospitality, hugs and kisses all around.   Andy’s boys, Marty and Tommy give Celina hugs and noisy little kid smooches. The men drift outside to talk over the inevitability of the Dodgers and Yankees going to the World Series again this year. They always talk about the state of the coal industry, close calls at the mine, and the price of used trucks. The women set to work carrying laden bowls and platters to the table and share local gossip. Marian watches Ellen and nods her head knowingly—she always could tell when a woman was pregnant and she thinks Ellen will be making an announcement very soon. Her glance shifts to her unmarried daughter and she wonders if Celina will ever marry and start a family. Oh, the things mothers have to worry about.

What are your memories of family dinners?



A Woman’s Role will be available on January 30, 2014, through Amazon, B&N, Kobo, Sony, and Apple.

The novel explores the complications that impact a young Polish-American, woman when she determines to have a career, asserts herself at home and work, and falls in love–all in a decade when few women were strong enough to challenge the dual pressures of traditional culture and family.



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