It’s happened. Again. For the fourth time.
That curse placed upon me that I would have children much like myself? It’s alive and well.
My parents had to hear about such incidents as the time(s) I was chastised at daycare for using profanity. The director, after once hearing me call someone a ‘shit damn,’ called me over and smeared hot salsa all over my tongue (true story), before reporting my behavior to Dad and Mom. I was about four and I don’t know that I deserved double punishment, but it happened and I was able to grow up without extensive therapy.
And then it all came back to haunt me … again … only a few months ago.
The family was eating Tex-Mex at one of our favorite area dives, when our four-year-old grandson (the fourth ‘child’) observed that we weren’t sitting in our regular spot.
“Those people are sitting in our table,” he said, as he stood in his own area of our booth.
“Sweetie, that’s not our table,” my wife responded. “This is a restaurant and at a restaurant we get to sit at whatever table is open.”
“Those bastards,” the little 4-year-old responded, as he cast a cold stare toward our ‘regular’ table.
Just this past week — his very first ever on a school campus — the boy stormed from his classroom and ran all the way down the hallway of his school screaming “I want my mommy and my duck!” He took his sideshow along the shortest possible route to the principal’s office. Being the gentle soul that she is, he received nothing more than some comforting. I, on the other hand, received some ribbing about what I must be doing to that poor child to cause such outbursts.
Outbursts were always a specialty of mine. Not including that cribbage game several years ago during which words — and multiple beer bottles — were tossed around erratically, I’ve had somewhere in the neighborhood of 376 of them in my lifetime. My wife? Not so many.
But her outburst on the streets of Manhattan as a little girl (Mom wouldn’t buy her a slice of pizza) was one for the ages. The favor has been returned. Tenfold.
The multiple payback incidents were mostly committed by our calmest child. Sure, Alexandra has had her moments, but none in her 14 years as memorable as the fits she threw when her mother would leave home for work or to run a quick errand. Heck, some of those meltdowns even happened when she snuck into the bathroom for a quick shower.
It never failed. Each time Catherine walked out the door, no matter how quietly, Alexandra stormed from the house screaming at the top of her lungs. Neighbors regularly opened their doors to see a three-year-old running the quarter-mile length of Chestnut Lane yelling and crying. And then there was me. Dad. I chased her down each and every time, carrying her home over my shoulder as she pounded my shoulder blades with her tiny fists and upped her volume a few decibel units. Talk about feeling like chopped liver.
I also felt like chopped liver about 35 years ago at my father’s family reunion, where my brutal honesty was met with a sharp pinch to my collarbone.
“Y’all need to come visit us some time,” a distant family member of Dad’s said.
“Yeah, we do,” he responded. “Between work and kids, it’s just tough to leave town.”
“Especially since we never have any money,” I intervened.
Fast forward three decades to our early years on Chestnut Lane. Our neighbor was an elderly woman who outlived her husband and son. She was kind and welcoming, but also cried almost every time we spoke for more than five minutes. Naturally, we felt badly for her. Enter Christopher, who at age five, decided he would make everything better.
“Hi Miss Mary,” he greeted her as she answered her front door.
“Well, hello Christopher,” she responded.
“I brought you these,” he said, handing over some used but freshly washed and folded dish towels.
“Why … Thank you, Christopher,” she said. “Why are you giving me these towels?”
“Well, Miss Mary,” he said, “My parents are always saying ‘poor Miss Mary,’ and I thought these might help.”
The dish towel episode might have been spawned by the curse placed upon my wife by her mother. A much younger Catherine passed the hat around her neighborhood, telling everyone that her family was poor and broke.
There are certain aspects of the curse that have not come to pass. But, knowing that I did some dirty dancing at my wedding (on video, no less); once told a family friend, who called for my dad, that my parents were in the shower — together (it was 2 in the afternoon); and drove two preachers to cussing, I know there’s more to come. Plenty more.
But there’s also some payback on the way. Like my parents before me and theirs before them, I’ve placed a few curses of my own.
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Through all of my years in Boy Scouts, I cooked almost every meal for my group out in the wilderness. I had a few specialties, but ‘hobo’ dinners were always a favorite. I think part of the reason is because everyone was able to participate in building his own meal — sort of like a Mongolian BBQ (or Kramer’s ‘build your own pizza’ scheme on the Seinfeld television series). Another advantage to dinners cooked in foil is that they can also be breakfasts and desserts, lunches and midnight snacks. Cook them on your grill for and avoid taxing the air-conditioner, or any significant cleanup. And, have fun!
Foil Dinner Packets
Make foil ‘cookware’
1. Tear a long (about two feet) sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil, or 2-3 sheets of standard aluminum foil. You’ll want to stack the standard foil sheets.
2. Spray inside surfaces lightly with oil, if necessary, then place ingredients in center.
3. Bring the (lengthwise) ends together and fold 2-3 times to create a seal — but not too tightly (leave some room for steam to circulate). Fold in the ends to create a seal.
Classic ‘Hobo’ Dinner
Place 1/4 lb. ground beef in center of foil. Top with desired amount of 1-inch-cube potato chunks, sliced carrots, celery and onion. Season with Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Seal foil. Cook over a low grill for about 30 minutes. — Serves 1.
Squash, ‘Shrooms & Onions
Spray foil lightly with oil. Combine three thickly sliced yellow squash, 4-5 quartered white button mushrooms and half of a small yellow onion, sliced. Place in center of foil. Season with desired amount of Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Top mixture with 3-4 pats of butter. Seal foil. Cook over a low grill for about 15 minutes for crisp-tender vegetables, or about 25 minutes for well done. — Serves 4 as a side.
‘Upscale Hobo’ Dinner
Place 1/4 lb. ground beef in center of foil. Top with 4-5 quartered white button mushrooms, a few onion slices and a TB, or two, of cheap red wine. Season with freshly ground black pepper and Kosher salt, as desired. Seal foil. Cook over a low grill for about 15-20 minutes. — Serves 1.
Bubble & Squeak
Spray foil lightly with oil. Place 1 cup of sliced smoked sausage in center of foil. Top with 2 cups chopped fresh cabbage and a small handful of 1-inch-cube potato chunks. Season with Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Top mixture with 2-3 pats of butter. Seal foil. Cook over a low grill for about 30 minutes, rotating occasionally and flipping for about 5 minutes at some point during the cooking. — Serves 1.
Thai Coconut Shrimp
Spray foil lightly with oil. Combine 1/2 lb. peeled deveined shrimp with 1/4 cup coconut milk, a stick of chopped lemongrass, 1/8 cup chopped fresh cilantro and one finely chopped Kaffir Lime leaf (use a couple Tbs of lime juice as a substitute). Season with chile garlic sauce, as desired. Seal foil. Grill over high heat for 5-7 minutes. — Serves 1.