With This Ring

It is amazing the stuff William and I have accumulated over twenty four years of marriage.  About every five years, we purge the closets, cupboards, basement, and garage.  We have a sale or haul the pile of unearthed stuff to one of our favorite charities.  Every time we do this, we say, “There.  We’re done.  We’ve rid ourselves of everything we didn’t need or haven’t used.”  And yet, somehow, the stuff manages to creep its way back in to our home, hiding in the closets and cupboards, piling up in the basement and garage.  How does this happen?

The thing is Will and I don’t spend like we did in our younger days when we had the money and were completely irresponsible.  In our defense, we also didn’t have a child for the first seven years.  So yeah, we spent on ourselves.  But as we’ve matured (notice I didn’t just say got older), our spending habits have been reigned in completely.  Still, the stuff magically appears in our home.

I’m not talking about the unexpected gifts one receives and upon opening says, “Oh…that’s so…lovely,” all the while thinking, This has garage sale item written all over it.  Those items disappear immediately.  (Right now my very much alive mother is digging her own grave so she can roll over in it all the while despairing of my bad manners.)

Will is on vacation this week, and it is the perfect time to rearrange the closet in the back bedroom where I have stored all sorts of home décor and mementos from our son’s baby years.  My darling hubby takes up half of the closet we share with his dress and casual clothes, and now he needs another full closet for his works clothes.  This means it is also time to move the shelf from the basement where his overflow of clothing is stored as well as empty the bins where he keeps his unmentionables.  Remember:  I have half a closet for all my dress and casual clothes, shoes, and lingerie.  Is there something wrong with this picture?

The job takes longer than I expect because I have to dust and sort the home décor and Joshua’s keepsakes into separate bins, and I discard a whole bunch of stuff I forgot we even owned.  When combined with the things removed from the basement shelves, we part with a Victoria’s Secret purse given as a promotional item with a purchase of perfume, a vintage-looking hat stand, two egg trays I never used, a two-pound dumbbell whose mate went to Goodwill years ago, a mini-vacuum for electronics, a bag of tee-shirts, paint-by-number pictures Will’s Grandmother Richards painted, three Asian prints I swore I’d have framed someday, and on and on and on.

Why do we hold on to this stuff especially when it isn’t even the good stuff?  Still, I’d like to think we received a reward for making the effort to clear our lives of so much junk.  Will shifts the shelf in the basement and immediately realizes it must be swept off before I allow him to move it another inch.  As I step closer to pick up what our two cats have knocked under the shelf, I spy something of incredible worth lying in the dust.

“Oh my gosh,” I scream as I squeeze past Will and the shelf, swipe the item off the floor, and crash into my canning jars.  I break one of the jars, so now I’m hopping around on one foot, our son has come running down the stairs because he believes I’ve hurt myself, and William, who cannot see what I’m holding, is in a bit of a panic.  He shouts at me to not cut myself on the broken jar.  But my face is beaming and I’m laughing as I hold up a gold, circular band and say, “Look—I found your wedding ring!”

Two years ago, one of the cats (probably Henry) knocked Will’s wedding ring out of the cubby hole beneath our bathroom cabinet.  When I noticed the ring wasn’t in the bathroom and hadn’t been placed in my jewelry box (where it belongs), I questioned Will.  Long story short, we came to the conclusion that it had been batted down the sink or into the register vents, lost forever, my heart broken.  Today, it has been restored to its proper place.  No, not Will’s finger; he’s still employed in a warehouse doing work that would wreak havoc upon fine gold jewelry.

As I think back on the whole wonderful experience, I keep wondering why after two years of praying did I find Will’s wedding ring now?  Yes, finding the ring is reward enough, but I also believe we learned the lesson of keeping our lives clutter free.  Whether it’s physically, mentally, or spiritually, a clean life really does provide opportunity for extraordinary reward.

Sukkah Like a Pro

There’s nothing to make you realize you stink at sukkahs quite like dining in the sukkah of people who have been doing it for years.  Imagine the cringe I felt in my heart as I approached the home of our friends, Dan and Valeri Remark, who, you will recall, also put on one prodigious Passover this past printemps.  But please don’t think for one minute that we weren’t made to feel extremely welcome or that we didn’t enjoy ourselves.

Still, I have to laugh at myself and the thoughts running through my mind as I walked toward the Remarks’ home.  Things like…oh, they have tiki torches lit…how charming…is that wisteria growing over the sukkah frame…please don’t tell me they trained wisteria to grow over the frame…of course they have wisteria growing over the frame—Dan and Valeri are awesome…oh, it’s branches of butterfly bush…yeah, that’s not any less gorgeous.

And don’t get me started on Valeri’s table.  In a word:  Wow.  Each place setting had a different yet perfectly coordinated bowl and plate, there was an eclectic mixture of wine glasses, and candelabras from Don Drumm Studio & Gallery graced the table.  For just a touch of whimsy, chili pepper and shotgun shell lights were strung beneath the branches adding to the glow from the candles.

We dined on Dan’s homemade chicken soup.  Other guests brought cucumber salad and challah bread .  My contribution was a cheeseball and assorted crackers.  I’ve provided my recipe below.  Dessert was extra special because we celebrated the fourth birthday of Dan and Valeri’s grandson, Roman, with a chocolate cake with whipped icing.

My thoughts regarding our soggy sukkah back home (it’s been a very rainy Sukkot this year)  were allayed by stories Dan and Valeri shared with us on their first attempts toward keeping the moedim (appointed times).  We may be eating off a card table and a too-small teak table from a patio set, but our hearts and our motives are in the right place.  As I said before, there is always room for growth with Adonai.

Pineapple Cheese Ball

1 – 8 oz. bar of cream cheese, softened

1 T sweet onion, finely diced

½ c. crushed pineapple, thoroughly drained

1 t sea salt

2 T green pepper, finely diced

1 c whole pecans

Place the pecans on a baking sheet and toast at 400° F for exactly five minutes.  Pecans toast quickly, so set an accurate timer.  Set aside to cool for later used.  Drain the crushed pineapple in a fine mesh sieve or colander with small holes and press out the excess liquid with the back of a large spoon.  Place the softened cream cheese, onion, green pepper, drained pineapple, and salt in a mixing bowl and combine thoroughly.  Use a spatula to form into a ball.  Coarsely chop the pecans and spread them in a neat pile on a cutting board.  Roll the cheese ball in the nuts, gently patting them in when necessary, until the entire cheese ball is covered.  A spatula helps with this process.  Serve with assorted crackers.

Enjoy!

The Sukkah Experiment

Less than twenty-four hours to Sukkot, and I have no sukkah.  What I have is a cabana frame with no way to attach the Chinese silver grass (and no promise the frame will support the weight) and no way to affix the sheets I plan on using as curtains.  Oh, I also have a mother who says, “You know I like things elaborate,” and “I just ran out of time to make the curtains.”  Funny how we’re back to using the sheets I suggested in the first place and she dismissed as hillbilly.

This is round two of building a sukkah for the Gibson Family.  You’ll recall last year’s efforts (Learning Curve) were redneck at best.  We’ve come a long way since then, and we’ve learned a few things.  Such as sukkahs need four walls and branches still attached to the tree don’t count.  Still, we did our best, and I truly believe Adonai was honored by our efforts.  This year, I’m thinking He might be grading on a tougher curve, and we’re getting points checked off for lack of preparedness.

You see, I had this all planned out on Monday when Mom and I went to buy the PVC pipe, three-way elbows, and the shower curtain clips.  We were on our way to Home Depot and ended up everywhere except Home Depot.  I could have had this finished Monday evening and been peacefully admiring my sukkah in anticipation of sundown Wednesday.  Instead, I’m anticipating watching my mother weave paracord around the top of the frame (at minus five-foot-short, I have no idea how she’s going to reach the top of the ten-foot-plus, peaked cabana frame) probably while standing on a step ladder (I’m not sure we own one anymore) placed on uneven ground.  I’m having flashbacks to Mom and Dad fighting over the set-up of…well, just about everything.

And the grasses still need cut down.  With a reciprocating saw.  I know we own one of those, but I have absolutely no idea what it looks like or where it is.  Dad is supposed to help me with this, but then I wonder who will watch Mom while she’s weaving paracord on a ladder?  This is not going well.  At least Dad should be sufficiently occupied cutting grasses so as not to pick a fight with Mom.  And nobody better pick a fight with me because I have a headache already.  Is it too early in the day for a glass of bourbon?

Here’s the kicker:  we have until sundown this evening to complete this, except Mom wants to eats dinner in the sukkah as a family.  My husband, William, leaves for work at 3:30 PM.  So, we have roughly four and a half hours to get this thing ready.  I’m thinking we should have completed the sukkah today, enjoyed some coffee, tea, and cake in it, and then tomorrow when husband’s vacation starts, enjoy dinner as a family.  Am I the only person who sees this spiraling out of control?

Don’t even get me started on dinner.  Mom asked what I planned on making for the first evening.  This is code for “I’m buying the cabana frame, so you make dinner.”  Not a problem at all.  Really.  I figured we’d have the sukkah up by Monday evening anyhow, so I’d be free to prepare food.  Then she texts me with a picture of the marinara sauce she’s making for dinner.  I hadn’t even suggested a menu, and already she nixed it.  Again, not a problem.  We like marinara over spaghetti, and I have back-up sauce in case our teenager snarls his nose at it.

It’s anyone’s guess how this is going to go off.  I know there are a few details we still aren’t going to get right, but like life in general, Adonai gives us time to grow.  It’s anyone’s guess whether it’s His voice or mother’s in my head saying, “Have a little faith.”

Applications

I keep stealing glances at our teenager as we sit at the laptop, and I’m trying not to snatch the mouse away or jump on the keyboard because I know I’m a faster typist.  Today, our son is applying for his first job.  Many of his friends are already working and driving, but we allowed Joshua to go a little longer without pursuing either.  For one, he didn’t express an interest in driving like we expected him to.  His father wasn’t too upset because he wasn’t looking forward to the jump in insurance rates.

For the other, we didn’t push him to get a part-time job as soon as he turned sixteen because we wanted him to focus solely on school and Boy Scouts.  We wanted, and were able, to extend him the luxury of a little more time to stay young, if not little, in a world that is demanding he grow up fast.

We’ve come a long way since the days of Lightning Juice and This Mothering Stuff is Hard.  Sometimes it seemed like a blur, and at other times the moments ground by painfully slow.  But Josh has taken an interest in his own life lately now that Scouting is winding down and his senior year approaches.  So, I sit beside this young man whose most recent goal is to grow tall enough that he can fit my head under his chin the way I did to him when he was little.

This young man with a square jaw reminiscent of his Grandfather Smith when he was a young marine.  This young man who has been cutting grass on the gargantuan riding lawnmower since he was eleven and a half.  This young man who cracks us both up when he types “Cuz i neds a jub” in the “Why do you want to work here?” section of the online application.  This young man who started shaving the peach fuzz that quickly turned into the stubble I feel when I kiss his cheek.  This young man who can play ‘Jingle Bells’ doing arm farts.  This young man who wants to earn enough money this summer to put a dent in his upcoming post-high school education and pay for his car insurance.

I could go on and on, but you get the idea.

Now the things we want for Joshua are giving way to the things he wants for himself.  Of course our desires for our son will always be for his benefit, but we’ll yield to him more and more as he shows maturity.  And we’ll be there for the times he doesn’t, guiding him back to the right path.

I often wonder if we did enough, laid a strong foundation for him.  Only time will tell, but for right this moment, while he’s still a goofy teen, while we’re pulling our hair out when he’s sassy and driving us crazy, I’ll store up these memories for the day he heads out on his own.

Happy Passover

Monday evening marked the beginning of Passover.  My family had the good fortune of observing the day with our dear friends, Dan and Valeri Remark.  The Remarks opened their lovely home to seventeen guests.  We had a wonderful time and enjoyed delicious food prepared by Dan, a chef, as well as matzo ball soup, roasted vegetables, and assorted cheeses provided by other guests.  I made the charoset and received many compliments.

The Seder hosted by the Remarks was relaxed and welcoming.  Guests had the opportunity to ask questions if they didn’t understand or comment with insight.  Roman, Dan and Valeri’s grandson, did an excellent job asking the four required questions and opening the door for Elijah.  Our son, Joshua, and the Remarks son-in-law, Quentin, engaged in a challenge to see who could eat the most horseradish.  Quentin consumed three slices the size of a quarter, and Joshua managed to down four.  Joshua was fine for the first few moments until the pungency of the root vegetable reached his nose.  Luckily, Joshua is a good sport who joined in the laughter as his face reddened and he gulped grape juice to cool the burn.

One elegant touch I’ll be sure to borrow from Valeri if I ever host my own Passover Seder is to offer my guests warmed, damp washcloths scented with orange essential oil for the custom of washing one’s hands.  Another is the use of a broken piece of pottery to collect the drops of wine while reciting the ten plagues three times each.

Giving up foods with yeast/leavening for eight days may seem like a huge sacrifice.  Yeast/leavening appears in places one wouldn’t expect such as canned broth and soup, prepared meatballs, and salad dressing.  It requires a little reworking of the menu when you can’t grab the items you’re used to.  Yet what we receive in return is so much more and makes up for the minor inconvenience of denying ourselves yeast/leavening for eight days.  The fellowship of the Seder alone is worth it, not to mention the freely flowing wine, love, and laughter we enjoyed at the Remarks.  Then there is the opportunity to reflect on Passover and what it means for us today.

Happy Passover!

Charoset

3 Granny Smith apples, peeled and finely diced

3 Gala apples, peeled and finely diced

2 c toasted walnuts, coarsely diced

½ c kosher sweet wine

½ c honey

¼ c dark brown sugar

1 t cinnamon

Three hearty dashes of allspice

Toss the diced apples with the toasted walnuts.  Combine the wine, honey, brown sugar, cinnamon, and allspice.  Whisk thoroughly and pour over the apple/walnut mixture.  Stir several times to coat before covering.  Allow to marinate in the refrigerator for at least an hour.  Stir again before serving.  Serve chilled at the Seder with pieces of matzo.

This Mothering Stuff is Hard

eagle-medalSince our son’s birth, I have enjoyed some amazing milestones with him. There were the obvious ones of first tooth, first step, and first word. The day I put him on a school bus for kindergarten was a thrill. I wasn’t afraid for him at all because my husband and I raised a tough little man. He was the type of kid who would scrape his knees to a bloody mess and worry more about returning to play outside than he was about the sting of hydrogen peroxide on the open wound.

Then there was a day ten years ago when Joshua decided he wanted to join Cub Scouts. He had tried T-ball and tennis, but Tiger Cubs appealed to him more. The first night he joined, throwing his stick of wood into the fire and announcing his name to the Pack, he declared he wanted to be an Eagle Scout. He stayed with Cub Scouts, achieving many more incredible milestones, and finished by earning his Arrow of Light during his second year of Webelos. Next came Boy Scouts.

About his time, Joshua started middle school. Homework, girls, and friendships became a little more difficult. Our sweet little boy turned teen, and a strange new creature emerged. My husband and I thought we were going to lose our minds at times as we dealt with this always hungry, often cranky, and sometimes smelly person. Through it all, Joshua kept plugging away at Boy Scouts, and he did quite well.

Mounds of pictures of Joshua at various Scouting functions piled up, and I always thought I’d have time to scrapbook them. And then one day, the time was gone. Joshua completed all the requirements toward the rank of Eagle and passed his Board of Review. We were ecstatic, the grandparents were over the moon, and even close friends and acquaintances smiled with pride when they heard. I tried to pack ten years’ worth of scrapbooking into a month and a half all the while planning Joshua’s Eagle Scout Court of Honor.

I put my entire life, including my writing, completely on hold because that’s what a good Eagle Scout Mother does. There were times when I wanted to quit making additional sacrifices on top of those I’d already made, but instead, I told myself to quit being a martyr and press on. Well, Joshua’s Court of Honor took place this past Saturday. I’m still receiving compliments for hosting an amazing party, and my dear husband defers any praise to me for the whole event. With a deep sigh of satisfaction, I turned Joshua over to another plateau of maturity. Only the feelings I expected didn’t occur.

Every time I looked at his shirt and merit badge sash bedecked like a four-star general, I tingled all over. That must be the pride, I thought. Only there was a lingering sense of melancholy. I chalked it up to post-party let down and laughed it off with the thought of now what? Occasionally, my eyes would tear up for no explainable reason.

Now don’t misunderstand me: I don’t want to abandon Joshua completely, but I did believe I’d relinquish him somewhat to his future. I’m not so sure that’s how motherhood works. My own mom confirmed this for me when she admitted that she still thinks of me and my brother as her babies, and the addition of spouses and grandchildren only provided more people for her to pray and worry over. In short, motherhood never achieves the status of finished.

What am I going to do when he graduates high school and leaves for college? How am I going to survive his engagement and marriage? What if he and his wife live out of state when my first grandbaby is born? And when he becomes the Prime Minister of Israel, next to the red phone on which he takes important calls relating to the administration of the country, he’d better have a gold phone labeled Mom.

I remember the night I gained the courage to turn off the baby monitor because it was extremely sensitive, and every time Joshua rolled over in his crib, the sound of crinkling sheets woke me up. I thought I’d never lose what my sisters-in-law dubbed my Mommy Ears. Little did I know that the tradeoff would be an increase in the footprint our son left on my Mommy Heart.

Learning Curve

learning-curveMy husband and I always try to present a good example for our son, Joshua. So this year, we decided to get down to brass tacks and build a sukkah. After all, we wanted to be obedient followers. William started by searching the Internet for suggestions on how to build one and found many companies that sell plans and/or frames. They were expensive. Next, he looked up the cost of PVC pipes and fittings with the intention of building our own frame. He must have looked at the price for 1/4” pipes because when we arrived at Home Depot, the pipes that would actually create a frame to withstand a gentle breeze were somewhat out of our price range, especially with all the cash we’ve been shelling out for our son’s upcoming Eagle Scout Court of Honor. We were not deterred.

We took encouragement from a friend who suggested building a sukkah over an existing frame such as that for a cabana. The Gibson household doesn’t own a cabana. We have a pup tent. Back to the drawing board. At least we had a ton of Chinese silver grass to cover the top of our sukkah once we built it. Another Facebook friend suggested chili pepper lights. I don’t believe we’re going to do that.

So, limited by funds but spurred on by faithfulness, William and I walked up and down the aisles of Home Depot looking for sukkah ideas. We found the prairie-style windows we’d like to have some day, the pegboard for the ribbon rack I want in my scrapbook room, linoleum for the basement room to replace the carpet that was ruined in the flood, and the sink and vanity for the bathroom when we finally redecorate. Nothing remotely sukkah-oriented came into view.

I can’t speak for William, but I started to feel depressed. I wanted so much to keep Sukkot this year, and I could blame only myself for not preparing. Who am I kidding? I also blamed William just a titch. That’s when the idea to build a sukkah between the back of our shed and our maple tree popped into my head. I envisioned something tent-like with an open top covered in the grasses William had yet to cut down. We could sit in our sukkah, eat, and watch the beautiful stars above. One hundred-feet of paracord and two lag bolts with eyes later, we were on our way back home to construct our sukkah.

Will drilled holes in the back of the shed for the bolts, and Joshua used a couple knots learned in Boy Scouts to make two sides of the sukkah. Thelearning-curve-2 paracord was looped around the tree, held in place by a two-by-four and a garden stake to reduce the sag, and I draped mismatched, flannel top sheets over the rope. The sheets were held in place by two clothespins on one side and two clipped hangers on the other. We didn’t use the grasses because the branches of the maple provided the perfect lattice cover.

It’s crude, and the sheets blow around quite a bit, but our redneck sukkah is the perfect place for two camping chairs positioned face to face with enough room for a third if Joshua ever gets a night without an overwhelming amount of homework. William, our collie, Aria, and I enjoyed a dinner of buffalo chicken dip eaten directly from the casserole dish in our sukkah last night. He had to sit a little to the right to block the setting sun from blinding me, but the golden reflection on the maple leaves was quite heavenly. We revisited the sukkah after dropping Joshua off at Scouts, and I must say that the stars looked a little brighter when viewed through the open top of our sukkah.

This Stinks!

One of the best parts of being a parent is getting to torture your teenager. It is why my husband and I were put on earth according to our teen, Joshua. We make his life miserable by expecting him to unload and load the dishwasher, sweep the floors, feed the pets, empty the trash, take out the recycles, keep his room clean, keep himself clean, do his homework, and get good grades. I’m sure you can see what horrible ogres we are.

These requests are usually met with heart-wrenching sighs and occasional eye rolls, sagging shoulders, and shuffling walk as he wanders off to complete this drudgery. This frees up me and the hubby to invent news ways to torture him right out of existence. And sometimes, the opportunities just present themselves in the form of stinks bugs.

this-stinks

Public Enemy Number One

I don’t remember stink bugs when I was a child. I’m sure I would have because the name alone invites ridicule; but truly, these foul little creatures seem to have materialized from nowhere. At the end of summer, just as the temperature is changing to give us frosty mornings, warm and breezy days, and chilled nights, the stink bugs show up. They cover the screens of every window and door, walk around looking menacing, and make the most horrible buzzing noise. I’m not an entomologist, so I assume the stink bugs are looking for a warm place to crash in the winter. Every now and then, one makes its way inside. If I leave the windows down on my car, they climb in. Joshua is terrified of them.

Picture this: I’m driving along one day with Joshua in the passenger side when I spied a stink bug on his side of the vehicle. It took my wicked mind only a split second to devise a plan.

“Hey, Josh? Don’t freak out, but there’s a stink bug on your side.”

“What? Where?”

“It’s moving.”

The brilliant little stink bug must have overheard our conversation because it flew off right on cue. Joshua freaked out, looking all around him for the flying demon. I actually lost sight of it for a moment because I needed to keep my eyes on the road. Joshua, who was seat belted, twisted in his seat peering into the space between his chair and door or between his chair and the center console. I saw the stink bug had landed on the far side of the visor in front of him. It was barely visible from where I sat. The tips of its legs gently curled around the edge of the visor.

“Mom—where is it?”

“Right here.”

I flicked the visor down toward Joshua which sent the buzzing offender flying toward his face. He screamed like a little girl. If I hadn’t been driving, I’d have been rolling on the floor. Then in a microsecond, he managed to unbuckle himself and dive head first between the front seats, landing in a gangly heap in the back.

For the sake of this post, I actually measured the space between the seats: it’s eight inches wide. At the time, Joshua was probably 5’ 10” – 5’ 11”. How he managed to jump from a seated position, fly between the seats without touching either side or the gear shift, and land in the back without breaking something is beyond me. It sure does make for one hilarious post. We never found the stink bug.

Bovine Fashion

Bovine FashionSeveral years ago, I believe it was around the time our son was still a baby, I learned that a new size had been created for women:  Size O. That’s amazing for two reasons. One, I’m pretty sure zero isn’t a size. In fact, zero is nothing. Two, I’ve been living among Americans all my life; I’ve seen how we eat. Who the heck is in need of Size O? I admit I may be incorrect about the date of invention of this stupidity. It may have occurred when I regained some weight when our son was eight, but whenever it took place, I remember it stood out to me because anything having to do with extra weight was a sore point for me.

I changed my initial impression when I realized that this was a brilliant piece of marketing, genius even. A little shifting of the numbers by clothes manufacturers and clothing designers could make a small percentage of women on the planet feel like the goddesses they believed themselves to be. Can you imagine the thrill of discovering you were now a Size O? The trickledown effect would be priceless as women sporting bigger sizes discovered they could wear a smaller size. Thank You God and Jenny Craig.

But wait, what about the plus-sized gal? Her clothing sizes didn’t seem to benefit from Size O. She was still segregated to the other side of the store, barred from the cute and darling world of Size O by a wall of clothing and mirrors. Oh sure, there were breaks in the wall where she could wander over to scan the jewelry, scarves, sunglasses, and shoes, but even her lingerie was kept in check by a plus-sized prejudice.

Our full-figured gal didn’t have to wait very long for the fashion gurus to re-emerge from their drawing boards with an even bigger piece of stupidity. Their intentions were good. So good that Satan was able to re-pave major portions of the Highway to Hell that receives much foot traffic from politicians. But I digress.

Picture this: I’m shopping in the plus-sized department, excited that I’m reaching the lower numbers as I shed weight, when I encountered a brand new clothing size.

“What is this?” I asked the young, thin, chipper sales clerk. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing on the tag in the shirt I held.

“Oh, that’s our new size.”

“What is it? It looks like a word.”

“Oh, that’s OX.”

“I’m sorry, what?”

“OX.”

I stared for a few incredulous seconds before I held the tag up and showed her. I spoke slowly to make sure she understood.

“Do you see that word right there?”

“Uh…”

“Do you really think I’m going to feel better about myself having the word ox in my clothing?”

“Well, it’s a new size. Really. It’s smaller than X.”

“That’s funny, because X used to fit me just fine. You do realize the only thing that has occurred is a shifting of sizes?”

The poor child looked at me blankly. And truly, I didn’t mean to take it out on her. I guess I just wanted a little respect and better selections for full-figured women everywhere. Not insults to my intelligence in the form of OX.

Gag Me With a Spoon

Lightning Juice is all about funny tales from family life, so today’s is a Retro Lightning Juice from the Reagan years. Enjoy!

~~~~~

Gag Me With a SpoonBoys will be boys, and girls will be girls. But when they’re teenagers, regardless of the decade, they all turn into little monsters. I’m reminded of this by my own teenager, who reminded me of an incident that took place during the late ‘80s, also known as the golden era of big hair and great music, in which my younger brother and I acted in a way that should have earned us a grounding.

Out of the blue one day, our father asked my brother, Heath, and me to make chili for dinner. In our defense, I’m not exactly sure what Dad was thinking. It’s not as if Heath and I could cook and not because our mother didn’t try. We just didn’t care. We were teenagers, and the only thing that concerned us was getting to the dinner table on time. How the food arrived was not our concern.

Of course, being teens we were highly disgruntled at Dad yanking us away from whatever leisurely activity we were engaged in, which is to say we weren’t doing a stinking thing. I recall that we had some sort of idea how to make the chili, and Dad helped by setting out all the things that went into the pot. At least we had enough sense to brown the meat before adding the rest of the ingredients. That’s where our common sense ended.

When it came time to season the chili, a devious little plan entered our heads. Well, actually, it entered my head, but Heath was quick to accept the idea. He even snickered in the most sly and sneaky way, so I’m crediting him with fifty percent of the accountability on this one.

Now everyone knows that chili is a zesty, spicy dish that ranges in degrees of heat from the mild “did I really just eat chili or was that oatmeal,” to the hot “oh, my goodness, I feel warm.” Heath and I opted for “Dear Lord in Heaven, I can no longer feel my tongue and throat, somebody call an ambulance.”

We didn’t exactly abandon Mom’s recipe, we kind of ignored and/or enhanced it by doubling, possibly tripling, the amount of chili powder we put in the pot. It was our way of ensuring that Dad never again made the mistake of interrupting our nothingness with the silly request to make dinner. And then we spotted the cayenne pepper.

By this time we were both giggling as we spooned in the cayenne and the red pepper flakes we also spied in the cupboard. But wait—there’s more. We rummaged through the refrigerator searching for anything else that might be remotely toasty to the palate and came up with Texas Pete peppers and Tabasco Sauce. Do you know how many shakes of that tiny Tabasco bottle it takes to empty half of it?

Like a couple of witches standing over their cauldron, Heath and I added and stirred, making sure our secrets ingredients were well hidden in the mix. Imagine how pleased our mother was to come home from work to find dinner made by her darling children. I remember her exact comment after the prayer during which Heath and I barely suppressed our laughter all the while making surreptitious eye contact.

“Well, this is interesting,” Mom said after a choked down spoonful.

I probably don’t need to tell you that it was nigh unto inedible. At any moment, Dad would realize his gross mistake and concede that the making of dinner was best left to him or Mom. It wasn’t to be. We all looked to Dad who was slurping up the concoction like it was manna from Heaven.

“This is (slurp, slurp) the best (slurp) chili I’ve (slurp, slurp) ever had.”

With faded smiles slipping from our faces, Heath and I tried to conceal our disappointment. Sure, Dad’s forehead had broken out in beads of sweat, his face was beet red, but he ate two bowls of chili without a single sip of milk to quench the burn. The rest of us gagged it down.

My brother and I probably sound like little demons. We were. I’ll never know if Dad ate the chili to make us feel good for giving it the ole college try, or if he suspected what we had done. To this day, he’d never admit either way. But keep one thing in mind, as far as my brother and I go, the apples don’t fall far from the tree. Don’t believe me? Just ask Dad’s three sisters how ornery he was as a kid.

%d bloggers like this: