Confession No. 52 – Good advice from my mother in-law: Stop wishing your life away.
It has finally occurred to me that time is unwavering. It’s also deceptive, unsympathetic … unforgiving.
I’ve always rushed the time to arrive at the next moment. And, though I can recall many of those happenings, my rear-view mirror is beginning to blur.
This past week I drove past the now-overgrown field on which I played T-ball for the Reds. Though we had a few thriller games with the eventual champions, third-place teams in those days didn’t receive trophies. That patch of grass seems much smaller now and I cannot remember the names of any teammates.
Just east of that field sat my old elementary school. It doesn’t seem that long ago that Dad and Grandad pulled up to the Garfield Street entrance of that school in our family’s 1960 Ford station wagon. Their elbows rested just out the windows, as it was late May. I can still hear Grandad saying ‘Hi Smiley,’ as I approached the car after the final bell of my kindergarten year. I’ll always remember my first glance at the brand new blue Schwinn bicycle resting in the large space behind the back seats. It was an early birthday present.
I can still smell the burning oak and pine at George W. Pirtle Scout Reservation as I tromped back to my campsite, where my scoutmaster, Joe Smitherman, had the cracker barrel ready and waiting. In my eyes, he never aged. But I told a packed sanctuary many seemingly-fresh stories about our troop’s adventures at his funeral more than two years ago.
My son enjoyed many moments at the same camp, in most of the same campsites. He ate in the same mess hall and took his swimming test in the same pool. He moved on from Scouting a few years earlier than I did, but not before creating some memories. As his assistant scoutmaster, I created a few new ones. And I was blessed with the opportunity to also go back in time.
A couple of weeks ago, I saw a circa 1974 photo of my MaMaw — Dad’s mom — sitting on a porch swing, flanked by my younger sister, older brother and me. I don’t remember that afternoon in Paris, Texas and I doubt my children remember sitting similarly in a large chair near the fireplace — my son on the lap of his older sister. He was two and she 10. They hammed it up for the family members who’d watch this video of our Christmas morning. Their 12-week-old little sister sat with them, staring ahead and sucking her thumb. Thankfully, we have proof that those events occurred.
I might have eventually needed proof of my time at Judson Middle School had I not visited those old stomping grounds just prior to its demolition a couple of years ago. The field house looked and smelled just as it did in the early 1980s, when I wore the pads and helmet of the city’s worst team. Neither the school’s logo nor the head coach have changed, but the campus is now modern. Our youngest child — the same one who sucked her thumb for the camera on Christmas morning in 1998 — is entering her final year at my alma mater and it just seems too soon.
As a child wishing for the end of school or for Christmas morning, my wife still remembers her mother warning her to stop wishing her life away. Lillian, by then, had it all figured out. Catherine, like the rest of us at that age, felt immortal.
Will Christopher remember all of those times I played catch with him? Will Alexandra remember putting on an oversized apron and helping me cook? Will either of them remember their mother volunteering countless hours for every organization in which they were involved? Or making them pose for the camera when they preferred not to?
When I was 16, my dad was so responsible. Mature. Grounded. Now that I’m the father of a 16-year-old son, I don’t see myself like I remember seeing my father. How does my son see me?
Time will hopefully tell a good story. But, I’d prefer not to rush it.
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No matter how skewed my memory, a plateful of porcupine meatballs always takes me back. They are simple — not only to make, but also in depth of flavor and consistency. They are also cheap, which is probably why porcupine meatballs were a fixture on the menus of my childhood. I still like to drench mine in Worcestershire sauce, but those opportunities don’t come nearly as often as they used to.
It seems I’m not the only one who turns to porcupine meatballs when I’m waxing nostalgic. I learned recently that my good friend Christine, of Texana’s Kitchen, has her own version of this comfort food. If you don’t know Christine, she’s cool like a Quentin Tarantino flick. And her food? Well, let’s just say that Bobby Flay likes it. Please keep on scrolling, because her story and recipe are included below.
Adam’s Porcupine Meatballs
2 lbs. – Ground beef
1 box – Rice & vermicelli mix (Rice-A-Roni), beef or chicken flavored
1/3 cup – Rice, uncooked
2 – Eggs
1 Tablespoon – Onion powder
1 teaspoon – Garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon – Black pepper
3 Tablespoons – oil (for frying meatballs)
3 Tablespoons – flour
4 Cups – Beef or chicken broth
Mix beef, rice mix, rice, eggs and spices in large bowl. Roll into 2-inch balls and brown on all sides in a large (deep) skillet in oil. Remove meatballs as they are browned and set aside.
Once all meatballs are browned, add flour to remaining oil and stir constantly for about two minutes. Add broth and mix well. Add meatballs back to skillet. If necessary, add water so that liquid covers meatballs.
Bring to boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and cook for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Serve with egg noodles and (canned) peas if you want to eat it like I did growing up. Otherwise, the rice and vermicelli in the meat gives you more than enough starch to eat it with a side of vegetables.
This makes enough meatballs for 6-7 people, or one really hungry person who wants leftovers 3-4 times.
Botox for the Soul
from Texana’s Kitchen
I am old. I will be 45 in September. I don’t really feel old, and I don’t think I look old, but I have long suspected that I must be old. Cashiers sell me booze without blinking, and everyone calls me ma’am.
But any doubt that I was aging died a few weeks ago, when my baby boy had to go to the Emergency Room. When they brought in his discharge papers to sign, they handed the clipboard to HIM. Not to me, his mommy, but to HIM! Lady, I don’t care if he does have five o’clock shadow and a voice like Al Green—you best hand me those papers! Screw HIPPA! And then, proud parent moment, he actually read them before signing.
In my head, he is still the cherub faced little rug rat playing with Hot Wheels, and watching continuous loop footage of The Lion King. How is he driving a lifted pick-up truck? Why is he taking Business Calculus, instead of learning his ABC’s? Why is that little girl in the lake with him wearing a string bikini instead of a ruffled tutu bathing suit? Where are their floaties? Why is he going to work this morning? I’ll tell you why!
Because I am OLD.
I don’t remember it happening. It just happened. Only yesterday my husband and I were chasing toddlers, and then we woke up and we have these two pre-men in our house. They are growing hair everywhere—EVERYWHERE—and they don’t smell like baby powder and chicken nuggets anymore.
So if that happened to them, something has to have happened to me, right?
A pre-cursory look in the mirror, reveals—nothing. I am pretty sure I look the same as I did in college. It’s just that the college kids today look like they are in fifth grade, right? Right? Shut up! Who asked you?!
So upon closer inspection, I see—no gray hair—that’s good. Okay, so I see some very fine lines between my eyebrows, where I frown at the computer. It must be creases in my make-up, so I remove my make-up. Wait…Why are the lines still there? And when I put my eyeliner on, and add the little tail at the end, why does the tail seem to droop? I’ll tell you why!
Because my son signed his own paperwork at the Hospital. Because he is taking Business Calculus. Because he is driving a lifted pick-up truck to work every day. And because the girl riding shotgun is not in a booster seat, and she is not wearing a ruffled tutu bathing suit.
But I don’t feel old. I think my children have grown up around me, and I am still 25. The day that I look in the mirror and think I look my age will be the same day I make an appointment for botox injections between my eyes. If my hair gets gray, no problem—Loreal has a solution! I will not, as the commercials say, grow old gracefully. I will fight it every step of the way.
Until I need to ring up Doctor 90210, I only need periodic rejuvenation of my mind and soul. Two things that take me back so quickly, and so perfectly to my childhood, are my sense of smell, and my taste buds. And when my nose smells something cooking that I enjoyed as a child, it is a double WHAMMY, guaranteed to bring me warm and fuzzy feelings. Like I am a little girl in a ruffled tutu bathing suit, eating lunch my granny prepared.
Below, I am sharing one of my favorite comfort foods from my childhood. Porcupine balls. No, no! This isn’t a “rocky mountain oyster” sort of thing. Porcupine balls are ground beef mixed with rice, formed into balls, and pan fried and simmered in gravy.
A few weeks ago, one of my friends, Adam over at Unorthodox Epicure, mentioned he had made them for dinner. I had never heard anyone else ever mention them before, so I was so excited to share memories about them with someone. We decided we would both write about them, and share both of our recipes with you….We did not discuss ahead of time how we would approach our stories, so it was kind of funny to see how similar they were. Obviously, porcupine balls illicit in both of us memories of our youth, and strong feelings around the passing of time….
Christine’s Porcupine Meatballs
- 2 pounds lean ground beef
- 1 envelopes onion soup mix
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons black pepper
- 1 tablespoon worschestershire sauce
- 1 cups long grain rice (not cooked)
- 1 cups water
- 1 can condensed French onion soup
- 2 cans condensed golden mushroom soup
- 1 cans water
Combine meatball ingredients in a large bowl. Roll into 2” balls. Fry in a large skillet until browned on all sides. Mix soups and water together in a large bowl, and pour over meatballs. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes.
You have your meat and starch covered….Just serve with a salad or other vegetable! Serves 6-8