Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Cookie Crumbles

The crunch of his tires on the gravel driveway announced 12:00 noon as faithfully as the fire whistle in any little country town. Daddy made the two-mile trek home every day to eat lunch and watch “The Cookie Crumble,” which was Dad-speak for a soap opera called “As the World Turns.” When we were home in the summers, his appearances were the highlights of our days.

About 11:30, one of us girls set the table while the other “made the tea.” Making tea was part of the preparation for every meal other than breakfast. You put water in a pan and set it to boil, got out the Lipton’s Loose Leaf tea and a spoon, and waited. When the water boiled, you put three or four teaspoons of leaves into the pan and turned off the stove. Next, you got out the strainer and a pitcher and put ice into the glasses waiting on the table. By the time you finished with the ice, it was time to pour the tea through the strainer and into the clear glass pitcher. The hot tea usually filled the pitcher about a third of the way until you added cold water, and then the pitcher was full and the tea was ready.

Mom cooked three hot meals, including dessert for lunch and dinner, nearly every day of our lives. Lunch wasn’t as big a meal as supper, but it was an honest-to-goodness meal—meat and potatoes and vegetables and bread and butter. Daddy couldn’t sit down to a meal without bread and butter.

When Dad opened the back door, the three of us kids bum-rushed him, each one trying be the first to get a hug and a kiss. He wrestled us and kissed Mom, then walked to the back of the house, where he washed his hands before coming to the table. We all sat down together for lunch, and then Debbie and I did the dishes and swept the floor while Mom and Dad watched the cookie crumble (we could see the tv from the kitchen, too).

When the organ music cranked up to signal the end of the program, Daddy kissed Mom and went back to work. Five days a week, 52 weeks a year, this was the rhythm of our lives.

There was one variable. Every once in a while, Mom decided not to let Dad kiss her good-bye, which meant he couldn’t go back to work. When he leaned over for his kiss, she covered her mouth with her hands and took off running. Daddy, of course, chased her, and we chased him. Out the front door, down two wooden steps, around our little white house, through the garden, and around the LP tank we went, a 6 foot 4 inch man chasing a 5 foot 4 inch woman, both of them followed by three shrieking, laughing children.

The three of us did everything possible to keep him from catching her, and when he finally did, we tackled them and clapped our hands over his mouth and hers so their lips couldn’t touch. Eventually, we were always defeated: Daddy collected his kiss and went back to work. Mom and Deb and I went back to cleaning or cooking or doing laundry; Jeff went back to whatever game he was playing. We all went back to waiting for the crunch of tires on the driveway.

In a comment the other day, Prema said something about what I thought loved was like. This was it.

Love was three hot meals a day, clean, ironed clothes every morning, never coming home or leaving without a kiss. It was winter picnics of tomato soup and fried Spam sandwiches, skating together on the frozen creek at the roadside park, all five of us scrunched into Mom and Dad’s bed on Sunday mornings.

More than anything, it was knowing that we had each other and always would, no matter what.


Nancy said...

Beautiful, beautiful. This is a story so simple; a daily routine that beats the rhythm of ordinary life, and yet, such joy! I saw the whole scene like I was watching a movie. I live the way you paint a picture.

Stacy said...

Uh oh, I didn't know "loved" until I was 38 years old! There were some beautiful love lessons in your childhood. This IS why we'd read your memoir. Keep going-you're on a roll!

Deb said...

You had me chasing along with the pack - my own little girls in awe of a family like this.

Your story gives hope and creates light. It is so important that you keep following the path and sharing it with us. You are an amazing story teller and a woman to be emulated.


Prema said...

This is not at all what 'love was like' in my world...but amazing the grace of the 'crunch of tires', the hello at the door from dad, dinner on the table (at whatever hour!)...and the anticipation of our parents reuniting, letting us know that our world was right and ok and safe. This is so archetypal, so primal, so longed for whether we had it or not. Even now, with a hundred alternatives to choose from, somehow the image you paint is a fantasy so many try to emulate.

It seems so pure in your family, in your memory. Yes?

Amber said...

This is a wonderful picture of love! Beautiful, in fact. Thank you for letting those of us who might not have seen this kind of love, have a little peek.

Lets us all know what to shoot for.;)

And I love the As The Cookie Crumbles. lol That is SO much something my grandpa would have said.


kario said...

What a terrific grounding your parents gave you! I can only imagine how that helped you become the attentive, caring mother you are. And I can not imagine how difficult it must have been to have that as an ideal when your own marriage was losing ground. Quite a testament to the fact that, no matter what the "rituals" are in a family - no matter what the family looks like from the outside, it can contain love if that is a priority. Even though your kids didn't have the identical kinds of rituals in their lives, I'll bet they feel loved by you. Thank you for this story, Jerri!

grammer said...

Jerri, this is just beautiful. Truly.

Thank you for giving us a window into Loved. xo

Terry Whitaker said...

If only all kids were given such a blessing.