After my recent column about spilled milk, Dolly Lawler, the mother of a former student of mine, shared a beautiful reminisce about two generations of “spilled milk” memories. She is allowing me to share it further.
I couldn’t help but respond to “Spilling Milk on the Kitchen Table.” I identified with it in so many ways, it wasn’t even funny. Well, maybe it was.
Regarding the mismatched tableware: When Ken and I got married, I couldn’t wait to have matching sets of everything. I was so tired of Mickey Mouse spoons, Captain Kangaroo plastic cups, and forks that tasted weird even when they were clean. My cup was the pink one, and my brother’s was blue.
My mom was pretty quick with the cleanup of any spilled drink. It was a rare thing because we got no refill if we spilled it, plus there was to be no nonsense when Daddy was at the table.
Cooked carrots were my big bane, and custard was my brother’s. He’d gag and eventually be dismissed from the table. There were no back-up snacks in those days. No chips, no candy bars, no cokes. If we didn’t eat supper, we were just out of luck until oatmeal the next morning.
The kitchen table was more than a place for meals. It was the hub of all other in-house activities. Homework, reading, working of puzzles, cards, building with tinker toys or building bricks, dominoes, playing jacks. Even our company gathered around the kitchen table instead of kicking back in the living room.
Later years in our own home after Jud and Frank were born, much was the same. We always had evening meals together. I always set the table (everything matching, of course), and we sat down to family meals. I did my best not to make a big deal out of “spilled milk” unless there were some shenanigans going on; if there were, I’m sure I flew off the handle as mothers sometimes do.
Those “together times” at our family table are very precious to us today. Ken and I laugh out loud at Jud and Frank’s very different eating habits. I know for a fact they both had the same parents and were raised alike by those same parents but were so different when it came to eating.
Jud inhaled his food, couldn’t get enough; he sometimes would have his food half eaten before everyone else at the table was completely served. He loved all food and moaned in ecstasy as he swallowed each morsel. One time he was dipping out mashed potatoes to his plate. He just kept dipping and dipping. Finally, Frank said, “Jud, the rest of us would like some potatoes too.”
Frank, on the other hand, spent more time at the table parsing food than eating it. All fat was delicately severed from his meat; onions removed from the fried potatoes; ham picked out of the green beans, and crust removed from his pie. He would still be eating, many evenings, after everyone else had left the table. I never made him stay at the table and finish a meal. He (slowly) did it on his own. Time never seemed to be a concern of his. But you better believe, if his potatoes were touching his green beans, or a little slaw juice had run into his corn, those were his big concerns.
One time when Grandma Jennie came to visit, we had BLT’s for supper. Five-year-old Frank proceeded to take his BLT apart. He removed the tomato and announced emphatically, “Mom, you know I don’t like tomatoes on my BLT’s.” He fiddled with it some more, removed the lettuce, and stated, “Mom, you know I don’t like lettuce on my BLT’s.” By this time, he had our attention, and we were just waiting for his next declaration. We were not disappointed when we heard, “Mom, you know I don’t like bacon on my BLT’s.” We roared with laughter! The part that amazed us was he ate everything on his plate: the toasted bread spread with mayonnaise, the tomato, the lettuce and the bacon. He just didn’t want it all in a sandwich. That was probably the first clue I got that Frank didn’t want certain foods on his plate together or touching.
As you can see, I’ve gone from responding to your article to reminiscing. I bet you never thought when you put your thoughts into words for your article that one of your readers would take a journey down the kind of memory lane I’ve been on.
Dolly’s piece demonstrates what I like best about the articles I write to share: my memories often trigger in others memories from their own lives.
I wish I had started recording my thoughts much earlier. With my parents and most of their siblings gone now, I have questions that will never have answers. I urge everyone to jot down favorite family memories – big and small – somewhere, somehow. There is no need to worry about writing style or rules. Those memories will be precious to so many people for so many years to come.
That is true for Dolly and her husband Ken. Their sons – enthusiastic eater Jud and deconstructionist Frank – lost their lives in an automobile accident on October 13, 1999. I sincerely thank Dolly for sharing her memories, which seem all the more special.