Monday, March 28, 2005

a different kind of christmas dinner

it was all grandma's doing, really. she just couldn't fix the big dinners for the family anymore without getting too tired and worn out afterward. she didn't want to give it up and didn't want to quit having them, so she made up some new rules for these dinner. that was not surprising about grandma lottie, as we accused her of making up her own rules every time she started losing at something! every person attending was to make and bring his or her own dish for the dinner. old people, big people, little kids -- everyone had to fix and bring a dish. she would make the turkey, but that was it. all of the condiments would be provided, like mustard, ketchup, salt, pepper, and butter. other than that, we were at the mercy of what everyone wanted to bring.

i didn't like potluck dinner because i didn't like eating food when i didn't know who prepared it or i didn't like not knowing what we were going to have. now grandma still tried to control the menu some by making suggestions, but people could really bring whatever they wanted. we had plenty of warning on how this dinner was going to be, so no excuses on not having our stuff done. i was just 12 at the time, so i wasn't real big into cooking. i could make some things, but didn't know how to plan a meal and what side dishes needed to be made. mom suggested i make 5 cup salad, so that's what i planned on. easy to do, didn't take long, and she had the stuff -- sounded perfect to me.

for some reason, dad didn't think that he was going to have to prepare anything for the dinner. my dad always had fairly traditional gender roles, but he could and did cook when he had to. but he didn't clean up the table afterward unless he was asked to, and he left the huge majority of the cooking responsibilities up to mom and me. now, in his defense, he didn't expect mom and i to do any heavy farm work either. he didn't think that i should have to buck bales or lift anything too heavy or change tires on equipment or fix things that were broken. i guess in his mind, these things equaled out. the women were responsible for most of the household chores and the men were responsible for most of the heavier outside work. it was never stated or argued about -- that's just the way it was. when the new rules for christmas dinner were put into place, i guess he just didn't think they applied to him.

all along mom kept asking my brother and my dad what they were making to take to dinner. dad would say, "i figured you'd take care of that for me." mom would sigh and restate the rules for dad like he was too simple-minded to understand. then she would remind him that he had better be making plans to get something made. my brother decided to take a relish plate, complete w/ black olives, green olives, dill pickles, sweet pickles, and cherries. tough plate there -- 5 whole cans of things to open, drain, and dump on the serving plate. see? that was simple enough. he didn't prepare it until we got to grandma's house the day of the dinner, even. kirk left before we did because he had to drive 30 miles away and pick up his girlfriend, so he didn't witness the cooking battle.

sunday morning, the day of the dinner, dad still had not made plans of anything to take to grandma's house. i think he still thought that mom would come through and save him from this job. when he realized that wasn't going to happen and that he needed to have something prepared to go with him, he decided to boil some eggs. without asking or telling mom, he went into the kitchen and put a pan of water on to boil and started getting the eggs out. mom came in the kitchen in a bit and asked what he was doing. he looked at her like she had just gone stupid and said, "boiling eggs." he didn't elaborate, and probably on purpose because he sometimes enjoyed teasing her when she was already annoyed over something he considered silly. there was some old story from a previous generation about a family acquaintance who would put a boiled egg in his cheek and keep it there all day to make it last. totally grossed me out, but they all got a kick out of it and often mentioned this person.

dad claimed he was taking boiled eggs to the dinner. mom was having fits over it, probably due to embarrassment, telling dad that he couldn't take boiled eggs. he said that he could as there were no limits placed on what people could bring -- just that each person had to bring a dish. his dish was going to be boiled eggs. mom was getting madder by the minute, but dad was just calmly going about his business. mom said, "well, what is everyone going to think?" dad just laughed and said, "they'll think i brought boiled eggs." the family wouldn't think badly of dad and they wouldn't be upset w/ him. in fact, they would probably laugh when they heard the whole story told.

my mom was fuming over the boiled eggs business, and she said that dad was going to be laughed at for bringing them. i was a daddy's girl, and i didn't want anyone to make fun of my daddy for any reason -- so i decided that when he went out to do the chores that i would go in the kitchen and devil his boiled eggs for him. then they would be more presentable. dad seemed oblivious to all the emotional stress he was causing mom that morning, as he whistled while he shaved and headed out to chore. just like any other day in his mind, it seemed. mom was cooking and making a little more noise along the way because she was still irritated that dad thought she was going to do his cooking for him and then because he cooked boiled eggs.

while mom was in the shower, i headed into the kitchen to get dad's eggs out and start peeling them and mixing up the filling. surprisingly, there was dad at the counter, cracking shells as quickly as he could go. i jumped in and helped him pull shells off of the eggs, make the filling, and get the filling put back in the eggs halves before running on into the other room. he rinsed all his dishes off, put the deviled eggs back in the refrigerator in the "boiled egg" bowl, and snuck out the back door to go to chores. he was late getting in from doing chores that morning because he ran into some problems along the way -- yeah, like deviling eggs!

when dad was ready, we got our stuff and started loading up for church. dad looked around and noticed that his bowl of "boiled eggs" was not included with the food that was being loaded to go to grandma's house. he asked where his eggs were, and mom said, "danor, we're not taking boiled eggs as your dish to christmas dinner. i'm just going to tell them that you didn't make anything." well, dad was having none of that and ran back in the house to get his eggs. mom fumed all the way through church, and dad just let her. it was like some long-standing game they had going. he was being ornery; she was acting irritated by it all while he was entertained.

after church, we went to grandma lottie's house. everyone else was getting there about the same time, talking and laughing while they all carried in their food. it was quite an event to see who brought what. i was showing my cousins what i brought, and i saw that one of them had brought iced cookies shaped like deer. the icing was decorated like they were white-tail deer, too, and one had a red nose.

through all this commotion, dad never commented about what he brought or the cooking battle that had gone on at our house that morning. when dinner was all set up and everybody in the kitchen area, we had our prayer. the food was set up on the counter, buffet-style, and we started to fill our plates. uncle ronnie, mom's older brother, was ahead of us in line filling plates for his kids. there was a lot of razzing going on about hurrying up and not taking it all.

everyone seemed to be having a good time, until uncle ronnie said, "oh boy! deviled eggs! who brought these?" as he looked around the crowd. my mother perked up and looked at my father, letting him know that she didn't think it was funny that he had set uncle ronnie up to this orneriness. she was furious over it, and my father thought it was hilarious. in all honesty, it wasn't planned, but mom never believed that. uncle ronnie ate 2 deviled eggs while he stood there in line talking about how much he liked them. well, uncle ronnie's excitement over the deviled eggs at the dinner prompted dad to tell the story of the cooking battle that went on at our house that morning. he pointed out how he was counting on mom to help him out by cooking his dish and everything. well, everything except the fact that i helped him devil the eggs and knew they had been "fixed to be more presentable." that probably wouldn't have went over too well! the whole family had a lot of entertainment out of that story. from that point on, dad always took deviled eggs to our holiday dinners.

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