Through Any Given Door

3.09 The Amana

1959 • La Habra ~ Carleen had this thing about never running out of food. Her cupboards were loaded with bags of pasta, rice, and beans. Boxes of Cheerios, Wheaties, Trix, and Kix were lined up next to loaves of Wonder Bread, rolls, and buns. There were Twinkies, Oreos, HoHos, and Snowballs. There were rows stacked three high of Campbell’s, Dole and StarKist. She kept on hand six cans of fruit cocktail, each row neatly stocked, labels forward, not a one out of place. There was Bisquick and Crisco on the shelf below the peanut butter, jellies, and jams. There were bookend rectangle boxes of chocolate pudding and red Jell-O. Standing tightly in the spice cupboard were small red tins of Schillings. Resting on the top shelf were two large yellow bags of Toll House chocolate chips.

The Amana was the size of a 1957 Cadillac without the fins. Its shelves were stockpiled with lemonade and milk; sausage, bacon and eggs; strawberries and cherries and a watermelon wedged in tight. There were Tupperware containers of tamales, chili, and spaghetti, drawers of salami, baloney, and ham. The crispers hid carrots, artichokes, asparagus, and iceberg lettuce. The door guarded butter and Best Foods (never Miracle Whip, we hated Miracle Whip); a plastic lemon, a jar of Maraschinos and a quart of dills. The bottom freezer section was crammed with fryers and chops, fish sticks and fries, frozen peas and onion rings. Crammed in between were half-gallons of rocky road and mint-chip ice cream along with popsicles and fudgesicles. There were Swanson chicken pot pies and aluminum covered roast beef or turkey TV dinners for special occasions when Chuck wasn’t home. We had our own private supermarket, with enough food to last through another Depression.

Even when I wasn’t hungry, I’d slip in and quietly pull the handle on the refrigerator just to look, the rubber seal making a long, slow sucking noise as the door opened. Standing in my bare feet in the cool blue light, listening to the smooth hum of the motor, the sight made me swoon. I remembered earlier times when I sat on the curb, my lunch a Wonder Bread and Bosco sandwich and a package of Kool-Aid, my dinner often the same. I remembered my stomach growling so loud it was hard to fall asleep some nights. It had been a while since I’d sat on that curb, but I was still so hungry. I’d no idea there could be that much food in one place, and that I could eat anything I wanted whenever I wanted, just so as long as I didn’t spoil my dinner.

Cathy, age 10

And I wanted it all. I wanted to sit right there on our yellow linoleum, back against the cupboard, knees bent making a hollow to hold my plate, and eat until I needed to eat no more, until finally, I felt fed. It took me a while to believe Carleen when she said it was okay to eat; that I didn’t need permission. Bless her heart. I loved my sister, but I may have loved that brown Amana even more.

to be continued…

© 2018. Catherine Sevenau.
All rights reserved.

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  1. The photo of you shows a darling little girl. Things must to have been so much better with you and your sister AND the Amana!

  2. juliette Andrews says

    I must control myself not to chime in my memories on some of yours. It is good to know I am not alone with you all and yours.

  3. Susan Price says

    Your sister was a wonderful woman – she understood. Had she gone thru the same with your mother when she was little? Great photo! That Market Basket sign looks so familiar. What street was it on? My family shopped at the big grocery store where Randal St. (Ave?) ran into Whittier Blvd. across from Whittwood shopping center. It was owned by Richard Nixon’s brother. My parents voted for him when he ran for president the first time, and we attended the kick off to his campaign at Whittier College. I remember sitting on a blanket spread on the lawn and looking up at him on the outdoor podium. They did not vote for him the second time. Remember his nephew who went to school with us (name omitted to protect the innocent)?

  4. Susan Price says

    Your sister was a wonderful woman – she understood. Had she gone thru the same with your mother when she was little?

    • No, Mom cooked until I came along, then she generally gave up on much to do with the household. When I lived with her she cooked a couple of times a week and we ate leftovers, and when they were gone I ate whatever I found in the house, which wasn’t much. Interesting that she became a cook and housekeeper for others.

    • No, my siblings grew up at the time before Mother began deteriorating. She cooked and cleaned until about the time I came along. I think I was inadvertently the nail in her coffin. Bad timing on my part…

  5. Bonnie Brantley says

    Thank you, Catherine, for another chapter in your wonderful serial. When you kids had been so hungry all that food was great to help you feel secure. I have noticed a new phrase lately for hunger: “Food Insecure.” I remember being so hungry for something good and different my sister and I would sit with an open magazine on our laps, looking at the pages and pages of good food. We would snatch at the picture and put our hands to our mouths, pretending to eat. We would be in a race to see who could “snatch” up that picture food first.

    • I’m grateful that I did not grow up with an eating disorder.

      • Bonnie Brantley says

        It is really a miracle that you didn’t. My poor little mom never weighed more than 110 lbs and I remember her waiting for us kids to stop eating and she would eat our leftovers. We would get so tired of the same thing, day after day, that often we would just stop eating. We ate a lot of boiled potatoes.

  6. Barbara Jacobsen says

    Amazing description! Sounds like your guardian angel worked overtime on this one. I’m getting hungry, even though I can’t eat most of the food you described! I love this photo of you.