Allison Hinze: Talking with strangers

Allison Hinze, Entertainment Editor

My latest adventure brings me to a garage in Joliet, IL. Every year a large gathering of family and friends travel to this garage that has been cleared out, and re-organized into an assembly line of sorts to make homemade pierogis—a type of polish food usually prepared during the Christmas season. Their doughy exterior blankets a filling, typically cabbage, cheese or potatoes.

I was given the opportunity to help out with this family tradition from my friend’s mom, who is pretty much 110% Polish. I was over at their house one night and I happened to let it slip that I was Polish as well. Without even hesitating, she invited me to join her family as well as their other relatives to help with the process of making about 200 plus pierogis for their large family gathering Christmas Day.

And I thought to myself, why the heck not? Throughout the years many of my friends’ families have extended an invitation for me to do something with them during the holiday season, and I always jump at the chance because of my own family’s lack of holiday enthusiasm. It’s been awhile since my family has embraced our own traditions, especially since my grandma died.

So I found myself sailing down I-55 to meet the rest of my friend’s extended family to assist them with their own family tradition. When I arrived, I was overwhelmed by the amount of people milling around the house. However, their welcoming nature made me feel like I was with my own family. Once everyone had arrived my friend’s mom said a prayer and everyone picked a task to begin. At first I was placing the filling in the circles of dough and folding them over, trying to perfect the technique of pinching the ends together. I met a score of aunts, uncles, and cousins both young and old. My favorite was my friend’s grandma, who I called “GG”. Witty and outgoing, GG showed me the ropes of how to make the perfect pierogi all while asking me about my family, school, and what exactly I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I in turn asked her about her family, what she went to school for, and what she has done during her life.

Then a woman carrying a blonde little boy with bright blue eyes tapped me on the shoulder. Startled, I spun around and I was face to face with Mrs. Lieyos. For those of you who have not been acquainted with her yet, she is a PE teacher here at Central. Turns out she is my friend’s older cousin, and I was standing in the garage she grew up in. She also told me that there were pictures of her with a perm inside the house. I left that day with pierogis for my family, my own container of chex mix from an aunt, possibly a future babysitting job, and bewildered at how small the world was.

I also left satisfied that I was able to contribute to a great family’s Christmas tradition. It’s incredulous how this family opened their home to a complete stranger like me and allowed me to help them out. I’ll be forever thankful for this experience.