It was an unspoken invitation that if you were feeling a bit lost, lonely or peckish on a Sunday, Mrs O’Grady would find a spot for you at her table.
I’d found myself perched on an old crate on the edge of the long table after one of her sons, Daniel, had brought me home. We’d been in one of the playing fields near the school when he’d called it quits as it was time for Sunday lunch. He must have seen a flash of hunger on my face, because he insisted that I come along with him. I’d hesitated, but not for long. It was only me and Mum at home, and she worked on Sundays.
As we walked along, Daniel gave me a quick rundown on his siblings and the extended family and friends who might be at his place. The list seemed to go on, and I slowed my steps, feeling a bit overwhelmed. But Daniel nudged me on, and I followed him along a narrow laneway, wobbly fenceposts held upright by vigorous morning glory, as he shoved open a back gate.
The backyard was set out with a large veggie patch in one corner and an ornate chook run in the other. As we walked past, a rooster landed with a resounding thump on the low tin roof of the laying hutch and crowed. Daniel laughed as I jerked away from the noise, startled at the sheer volume and intensity of it.
‘Don’t mind old Henry,’ Daniel said, and I followed him to the wire back door where we pulled off our boots. Already there seemed to be a mound of boots and shoes by the door, and I could hear the hubbub of animated conversations before we headed inside.
We stepped into the kitchen where three women were busy stirring, slicing and serving up. Daniel introduced me to his mother, and she gave me a quick smile of welcome before telling us to find somewhere to sit as it was time to eat. Daniel grabbed me by my sleeve – I’d been staring open-mouthed at the slab of roasted lamb that was being carved up by a girl smaller than me – and I followed him into a large room where the noise was coming from.
Conversations were being shouted about the room, across and around the table. A few of the men and women waved and called out to Daniel, and I wondered where everyone would fit as whilst the table was big, there seemed to be no room for any extras. But Daniel edged us in along one side, and everyone shuffled to make a bit of space.
It was just in time, too, as a procession of food began to arrive from the kitchen. Platters of carved roasted lamb, piles of baked potatoes and pumpkin, steaming mounds of green beans and shredded cabbage, and a couple of huge gravy boats, all scenting the air. For a moment, all talk ceased.
‘Dig in,’ said Mrs O’Grady from the doorway, a smile on her face as she wiped her hands on a tea-towel. Cheers and thanks filled the room and plates were loaded and passed around and the room filled with chatter and the clatter of cutlery as the Sunday roast was shared.
I’m participating in this blogging challenge for the month of January, which supports starting the year on the “write” track. You can find other posts with #bloganuary and join in the challenge.
Photo: dining room table, set for a meal, Rouse Hill House & Farm