It was time. I was waiting for the perfect moment to turn in my paperwork to announce my intent to retire. After telling my supervisor, I brought cupcakes in for my co-workers with a note announcing my retirement. Over the previous six months there had been several announcements about pending births that were met with enthusiasm and rounds of congratulations. Three hours passed, I received one congratulations from a co-worker. Some never said anything and another was jealous. No mention was ever made of the years I had worked or the contributions I had made. Throughout the coming months I received comments such as “I wish I was retiring” or “where will you be moving to”. To which I responded “you do know you have to be older to retire or very wealthy” and “there are no plans to move right now”. It was a relief to turn in my paperwork. After months of thinking about retiring and not saying anything I could now talk about it. After a few years of uncertainty whether I would have a job I could retire with grace and on my own terms.
The concept of retirement meant a change in how I worked. It certainly did not mean I would sit around on a rocking chair overlooking a beach or in my case the mountains day after day. I knew I needed to stay busy and find activities which had meaning to me. The first three years of retirement were an adjustment. At times I felt stuck, uncertain and perhaps a little depressed that I didn’t know what I wanted to do despite having created a list of things that interested me. The first three years of retirement included our son graduating from college, some health issues, a pandemic and uncertainty as how I was going to navigate this change.
Dinner at my house, growing up, was never a mystery; If it was Thursday we were having Macaroni & Cheese and on a Friday we would be having Liver and Onions or fried fish. On Sunday it was usually fried chicken, city chicken and sometimes beef. Beef was expensive so it was a rare treat, well, if you like very well-done steak.
The rest of the week we ate casseroles: tuna fish and noodles, chicken tetrazzini, Hungarian galosh, occasionally scalloped potatoes and ham or savory rice. There was always dessert – apple dumplings were my favorite and then brownies, cake, pie but always something sweet.
My mom was not an adventurous cook but she was organized. She kept a calendar of meals to prepare and stuck with it. Years later, when talking to my older brother about cooking at home I realized that our meals were pretty much the same every week. There was little variety, even though she owned a variety of cookbooks, mostly Better Homes and Gardens and their many special cookbooks. There was also a Pillsbury cookbook and Better Crocker. What all these meals had in common was that they were made from scratch, involved some form of Campbell’s cream soup, canned mushrooms and canned tuna.
We were a large family that lived off of casseroles, primarily because there was very little prepared food available. TV dinners and hamburger helper showed up during my teen years in the 60s. While my older sister and brothers loved the casseroles and still make them to this day I found them extremely hard to put in my mouth, much less to digest. My youngest brother invented a way to fill his mouth with just enough food and leave the dinner table for a bathroom break.
I was talking to my older brother one time about my son being a selective eater and my sister piped in that mom always said I was a picky eater. And that is a fair statement. I do not like the textures of some combinations of food and there are only a couple of recipes that I will eat that involve cream soup. My child has never experienced casseroles in his house growing up.
No matter what our tastes my brothers, sister and I all learned to cook. I don’t remember there being a lesson of sorts but we each spent our time in the kitchen with our mom cooking. I remember my mom taking leftover pie dough and rolling it out into a small circle and putting sugar and cinnamon on it and baking it for me to have as a snack. I also remember receiving my first Betty Crocker cookbook for kids; very excited and ready to make every recipe.
Over the years I have continued to enjoy cooking. I will try new recipes and play around with spices. My son has taken this a step further and creates his own healthy recipes.