Leslie banged plastic keys on her highchair’s tray. My brothers Todd and Sandy, heaved lemons from our tree at each other up in the rose garden.
“You boys knock it off,” Mom yelled.
They stopped, stared at her, and went right back to it.
The second eldest in the boy, girl, boy, girl line up and being the best one, I folded paper napkins neatly on the picnic table and put forks on top.
“Dad, when’s it gonna be ready?” I asked sweetly.
“Yes, Russ my stomach thinks my throat’s been cut.” Mom slashed a finger along her neck with crossed-eyes beneath cat-eyed glasses.
“Just another fifteen.” Dad smiled.
“You said that an hour ago.” She took another sip of her green martini and lit a cig-a-ra-ra-ra.
Handmade apron tight around his belly, he lifted the bar-b-q hood, and basted rotisserie chicken. The scent of his secret lemon concoction filled the air. Drippings sizzled onto the coals.
“Pat, have you checked the rolls lately?”
“Aah!” She handed me her drink, stubbed the cigarette in the abalone shell ashtray, and rushed through the back door toward the kitchen.
Dad and I exchanged knowing glances.
“What do you think, Jilliebeaner?” he asked.
I sighed. We both knew what was going to happen next.
Mom slowly stepped out of the house carrying a cookie sheet in oven mitts. The burned discs resembled cow paddies.
The boys came down to the patio.
“Good one, Mom,” Todd laughed, and Sandy joined in.
“Russ, if we’d eaten when you said we would this wouldn’t have happened!” she cried.
None of us reminded her she always burned the rolls.
Dad turned the aluminum-foiled baked potatoes on the grill. “Don’t worry we have plenty to eat.”
Mom started bawling and ran back in the house.
Leslie screamed bloody murder. I lifted her from the highchair and bounced her up and down.
Sandy grabbed his shoebox and the boys returned to the rose garden. This time in search of lizards. At least they didn’t start throwing the burned rolls at each other like last time.
Forty-five minutes later as the sun began to set Dad hollered, “Come and get it or I’ll feed it to the hogs.”
We all hurried to sit down. Mom slunk out of the house and joined us.
Dad put a serious look on his face and said, “Let’s say grace.”
With grins all of us kids folded our hands and started to bang on the table in rhythm, “Rub-a- dub-dub thanks for the grub. Big G. Little o-d. Yay! God.”
Mom raised her eyebrows, but then laughed too.
Yup, but I was that Mom of the 60’s…and it was fun…
Janice, I bet you were a great mom. An idyllic time without eyes focussed on cell phones. We actually talked to each other!
What a delightful rememberence! Love it so much.
Thanks Marilyn. You write a lot about family memories too.
Jill, What a sweet and realistic family memory. I love the word “sizzle” but then I got to the abalone shell ashtray and laughed out loud. My mother had one of those too. Everything is perfectly imperfect. I hope the chicken wasn’t dry, but I know it was… lol Thanks for the memory of the 60s. L
Leslie, Both our mom’s were characters which gives us a lot of write about. The chicken wasn’t dry at all! My dad kept basting it with his secret concoction.
Thanks Jill. Your story made me super hungry!
This really took me back into my own family “cookouts” as we called them back in the 50s. 🙂 No similarities to your Mom, mine was the organized one, but there are always jokes to recall about family goof-ups and mishaps – cooking and otherwise! We used to go to a lake nearby and Dad would grill steak and onions in wine, using a big cast iron pan on the grill! Thanks, Jill.
whoops, Jill, I submitted this under my son’s name by mistake! He of course was not born in the 50s, so it was from me!
Sylvia, I thought that post was from you. Your cookout steaks sound delicious.
What a fun memory and delightfully alive, Jill. Thanks for your story. My past doesn’t include so much outdoor grilling except those big brick bar-b-que structures at parks during my young years. I do have vague memories of a hibachi phase.
Judy, My first draft of this piece I wrote during an Olfactory Memoir workshop. It was fun to pull it out and polish it some more. Thanks for inspiring memories. xoox
Always a pleasure to read your words, Jill.
This one is new to me: “my stomach thinks my throat’s been cut.” It’s a great line. Dark and funny.
Nicole, Thanks for reading. I miss seeing your words! My mom was dark and funny. I’ve got a whole slew of her sayings in a poem I’ve been working on for years.
Cigarara?????!!!!! Love it-
I know hysterical!
Thanks for sharing. It conjured up some of my own memories. It’s true there was more direct comunication between family members back the…even if it was mostly yelling. I miss that.
Anna, Yes, I agree mostly yelling!
Thank was a delightful story! Brightened my evening.
Faith, I’m so glad it brought you joy!
Wow. I never really considered how hard it is to describe a smell from the past. I’ve been struggling to remember the smell of H-C juice and Tang. I think Tang tasted like baby aspirin, but can’t describe the smell. My mom made a faux secret sauce for burgers. I remember what it looked like, but I can’t describe the smell, only that it tasted like Jack in the Box burger sauce. So what did you learn from the workshop? I suppose in fiction you could cheat a little bit. The rice smelled like the colorful aluminum cups we drank out of when were kids.