Micro Memory 4: Food, Glorious Food

I talked last time about how my parents handled us finishing our meals. Perhaps we were never told about starving children in Africa because of this often retold story from my dad’s childhood.

Grandma said she would scold him about starving children in Africa anytime he didn’t want to finish his food. Once he started looking around and, after several minutes, asked for a box.

“Don’t be silly, Murray. What do you need a box for?” “So I can send this food to those starving children in Africa!”

My parents were O-B-S-E-S-S-E-D, obsessed with musicals. While that’s a whole host of memories in itself, I wanted to finish talking about mealtime.

When it was time to eat, Dad would bust out singing “Food, Glorious Food” from Oliver Twist. It wasn’t every meal but it was often enough for me to buy him a wall hanging with the words and chords.

But that wasn’t his favorite mealtime song. Asking for seconds, if you said “may I have some more” then he’d act indignant, say “MORE?” all dramatically, and start singing “Oliver!”

Oliver, Oliver
Never before has a boy wanted more
Oliver, Oliver
Won’t ask for more when he knows what’s in store
There’s a dark, thin winding stairway without any banister
Which we’ll throw him down
And feed him the cockroaches served in a canister…

Dad also had some favorite phrases when it came to mealtime. If you’re making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, he’ll ask if you want enough peanut butter to “gag a maggot.”

The phrase wasn’t really funny except it drove Mom crazy so we all used it as often as we could. Eventually it was used for a whole host of meanings and to the point of absurdity.

It got so frustrating to mom that she said anyone caught saying “gag a maggot” would forfeit desert. Since dad was the only one unaffected by the decree, we’d just egg him on to opportunities to use the phrase.

(I’ll admit, I still use the phrase today to explain the absurd amount of peanut butter I like on my sandwiches.)

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Micro Memory 3 – Dinner Time

Since I’m writing from a restraunt where I’m eating dinner, I decided to share a bit about dinner growing up. (As a side note, my Facebook link appears to be broken so these don’t appear to be sharing if someone wants to post them for me. I’ll see if I can figure it out this weekend.)

The first rule of dinner is you don’t eat before the prayer. If you do, you’ll end up sitting on your hands while your siblings start eating.

The second rule of dinner is hurry up and eat. If you don’t eat what’s on your plate, someone else will. This led to a lot of hunched-over plate guarding and Mom started calling us her linebackers.

Dad was the most notorious for it, eating from your plate and then asking for permission later. But children duplicate their fathers and all of us stole food once in a while.

Breakfast was self serve but make sure you don’t pour too much. If you don’t finish it, mom would put it in the fridge and give it to you at the next meal, while everyone else is eating something better. (Everything is better than soggy cereal.)

There’s more but my food’s getting cold so I’ll save it for tomorrow. 😉

Micro Memory 2 – Bedtime

My parents were opposites when it came to a lot of things but the most evident was sleep. Mom was one of those people who would stay up late and then fight the alarm clock in the morning. But dad loved to go to bed early and he was usually up between 2 and 4 in the morning.

Mom’s pastime was reading and shed often be in bed with a book of several hours till she drifted off to sleep.

As a young adult who doesn’t sleep nearly enough, I’d be up late and usually called her past 10pm without even checking the time. Usually these conversations were meant to be 5 minutes and would turn into an hour.

Sometimes if I spent too long talking without a response, mom would have fallen asleep on the other end of the phone. Occasionally I’d hear her snoring and realized I’d lost her. Sometimes I’d call her back but usually I’d just let her sleep.

In addition to going to bed early, dad loved naps. If a football game was on, you could bet my dad was upstairs “watching” (sleeping). Pretty much any sport was a great way to get in a nap. Any sport but golf, that is. Dad always said “golf is so boring you can’t even sleep to it.”

Often in the afternoons I’d go upstairs and rub dad’s back while we talked until he fell asleep. In this half-awake state my dad would agree to pretty much anything.

He promised to buy me a car when I turned 16, send me to Europe when I graduated high school, and much more. None of these promises were kept because I’m the only one who remembered them.