My immediate family is a small one. My brother lives on the west coast; I live on the east coast. Our parents, Bernice and Ernie, and most of our relatives were in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Since adulthood, neither my brother nor I could go “home” every Christmas, although we tried. But one year, the fates were in our favor. My mother is a woman of few words, but oh, how she smiled! All of her children were home, and she set about in her own quiet way to make this holiday special.
The Christmas Day feast usually rotated among different family households, but that year Mama insisted it was her turn. Usually we set up card tables in the den and served the meal quite informally. But this one time, she declared that the heavy mahogany dining room table, unused for at least a decade, must be called into service. That meant uncovering the layers of padding and plastic protection, adding the leaves, getting out the “good” dishes, silver, and stemware. That task fell to me. Then we realized that only one of the burners on Mama’s new stove was working, and no repairman could be found so close to the holiday.
So the feast was something of a miracle: leg of lamb (my favorite); a wild turkey (Dad’s hunter’s bounty); cornbread stuffing (Uncle Bob’s request); chitterlings (the grandchildren’s request); corn and green beans (raised on our farm); and Mrs. Copple’s light-as-a-feather rolls. When my mother gave me this recipe, I asked who was Mrs. Copple? “That’s the white lady my mother used to work for,” she replied.
The table was bursting at its seams from our extended family. One of my aunts was a little senile and had trouble remembering our names. One of my cousins was on his fourth or fifth wife, and we had trouble remembering her name. (No one could keep track of them, but we tried to be nice to all of them.)
Because we were together for this special time, Mama wanted to please everyone—never mind if the stove did not want to cooperate. So Christmas for me means love that is quiet and abiding yet powerful, love that is long-suffering and conquers all.
Carmen Field is a Boston-based media relations specialist with a print and broadcast journalism background. She is currently working on a collection of essays that chronicle the big band experiences in the ‘30s and ‘40s of her father, the late Ernie Fields. She can be found at Linked In.
Mrs. Copple’s Rolls
2 cakes Fleischmann’s yeast
1/2 c. Crisco, melted
1/4 t. salt
1 1/8 c. warm water
3/8 c. sugar
3 eggs, well beaten
5 c. flour, plus additional
1/4 c. melted butter
Dissolve yeast in 2 T. water with 2 T. sugar.
Add melted Crisco, remaining warm water and sugar, and eggs.
Stir in 5 c. flour, and knead to form a stiff dough, adding more flour if necessary.
Let rise until light (about 3 1/2 hours).
Punch down the dough, and roll out to a thickness of about 1/2 inch.
Cut into wedges, then fold over, Parker House style, or shape into round rolls, about 2 - 3 inches, and let rise 1/2 hour more.
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Place on a greased cookie sheet, and brush tops with melted butter.
Bake about 10 – 15 minutes, until browned.
Makes approximately 18 rolls.