Tag Archive: family

Mustard and Tacos


Back in the days when mustard was purchased in glass containers with metal lids, my parents could make a small jar last several years. It was not a beloved condiment; it was just used to perk up a sandwich made with leftover ham. A little dab would do.

When I graduated from mushed carrots and baby cereal to real food, it soon became apparent that my tastes did not always align with my family’s. For my sandwiches, mustard must be slathered on, not dabbed. Ham and cheese were superfluous. I was more than happy with a mustard and tomato sandwich.

My mother is a good cook and my father’s tastes are simple. When I was growing up, most dinners consisted of an appropriately cooked meat with a matching starch. Rice with chicken, potatoes with just about everything else. Pasta was the occasional treat. My job was to grate some cheddar cheese off the block to serve with spaghetti. Lasagna was a more complicated matter, but much more rewarding. Vegetables were either from a can or frozen, (Salads happened, usually with the lasagna) and were at first heated on the stove and then, in my mid teen years, nuked in the microwave. There were casseroles too, which I loved but, of course, my own children do not.

They share neither my tastes nor my parents’.

Sometime in my early teen years, a Taco Bell came to town. Living in Colorado, I knew that Mexican food existed, even though I had no concept of us versus them when it came to the fact that a significant number of my peers were Hispanic. The fact that our next-door neighbor ate yogurt was just as exotic to me at that time.

My mother took my sister and me into Taco Bell, at my request. It was probably lunch time, because my father wasn’t with us. He would not have found anything there he liked. I distinctly remember that the wrapper for the taco had instructions on how to eat it, as if, by taking bites from different parts of the folded, fried tortilla we could avoid it crumbling by the time we were done. This simple feat was beyond me, which is probably why I developed a preference for burritos.

Mexican food was exotic. We didn’t eat there often. Searching my memory, I think my first visit to a Chinese restaurant didn’t happen until I was in college.

Today I still love Mexican food. My daughters’ favorite is Chinese, especially if it is a buffet. I also discovered Greek and foods of other ethnicities when I started feeding myself instead of eating what my mother cooked.

A developing palate is a mystery of nature versus nurture. One cannot expect one’s own child to enjoy all the same things the rest of the family loves. Sometimes, out of nowhere, kids develop tastes for foods that are rare and exotic.

Like mustard and tacos.



Without Knowing

Reva, about a year after her adoption was finalized.

Reva, about a year after her adoption was finalized.

Sometime around the turn of the millennium, hubby and I took a long day’s drive to travel from Vermont up to Toronto. My father was born there, and although we had lost track of any living relatives, we did visit the graveyard where many of my ancestors are buried.

One marker caught me off guard. David… my uncle. My father’s baby brother, who lived for only a few weeks. I knew the story. When my father and his big brother were somewhere in their early teens, my grandparents had another baby boy. I think they knew late in the pregnancy that the baby would not survive. Of course it was a difficult time for the family; but by the time I was old enough to know the story, it was ancient history.

Seeing his grave marker gave me pause. Here was someone I knew…sort of. He was my uncle. If he had lived, he would probably have carried me on his shoulders or told me all kinds of stories about my father that I’d never hear from his own mouth. Instead, his life was tragically short. He was and will forever be a baby.

Around that same time, I had the odd feeling that there was another baby I should know…or rather, one that I would know. We had been trying to get pregnant, and I’d hoped to give birth in the year 2000. That didn’t happen. But I did have it in the back of my mind that we could adopt a baby, perhaps even one born in the year 2000. Somewhere, out there in the world, was a child that would someday be mine.

A few years later, hubby and I had graduated from college and bought our first home. We spent months going through foster parent training and certification, just to wait an entire year after that with no child placed in our home. We did respite for several children, but none of them were able to be placed with us permanently.

Then one day my hubby came home with the picture of a grinning, toothless little redheaded girl. She was in foster care and would very likely soon be adoptable. She was not in the private foster system we were registered with; she was a ward of the state. It took time, red tape, and paperwork to resolve that, but our six-year-old daughter (born in 1999) moved in with us in 2005. Two years later her adoption was final, and I gave birth to her baby sister.

It feels somehow fraudulent to claim that I loved two babies without knowing them. I love my Uncle David, though he died long before I was born. I loved my daughter before I knew her.

Love knows no boundaries of time or presence.

Love simply is.

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James, Mary, and the Mustard

I’m participating in a writing group at church. The focus is autobiographical, sharing our own stories. Each week we write a page or two on a different prompt. This one was “What was your family’s life like before you were born?”

James and Mary army uniform 01Neither James nor Mary was a native to Florida. James was a Canadian whose parents had moved to upstate New York when he was a teenager. He met Mary there, at Emmanuel Baptist Church, then said a sad farewell to spend three years in the Army.

Their courtship continued long-distance.

James’ parents, as well as his older brother, had moved to Florida, so when James was discharged that was where he went. Mary’s over-protective parents allowed their daughter to travel down the east coast to visit him, and she came home with a ring on her finger.

Florida became home to the newlyweds, but life was different. Orlando was hotter than Schenectady. They had to give up being Baptists, as that particular denomination is very different between the north and the south. Mary, a nurse, was the breadwinner while James went back to finish college. Lawn-mowing included killing the occasional snake. Frugality was the rule. One tiny jar of mustard easily lasted them several years.

Baby number one arrived, and some things changed while others remained the same. James was still in school, but Mary stopped nursing to stay home with the baby. They still killed snakes with the lawn-mower, but with a crawling baby this duty took on a new importance. In addition to the three nieces they already had, another was born.

James finished school and went to work for Martin-Marietta. Their toddler daughter, destined for great achievements, uttered her first word, Gesundheit. There was church. There was family, some close, some in distant Schenectady. There was a dog. These things would remain the same as the sixties became history and the seventies began.

Other things would soon change. On Florida’s eastern coast, man would no longer blast off to the moon. Another daughter would be born to James and Mary. The brood of nieces would expand to include one nephew. Employment opportunities would take them to places that were neither New York nor Florida.

And that little jar of mustard that usually lasted several years would suddenly disappear in hardly any time at all.

Hmmm… with an ending like that, I’ll have to eventually write a story about the mustard.

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Cellar Door

Wine_cellarFinding the wine cellar door was the greatest stroke of serendipity. Frank’s uncle Jack had disappeared for eighteen months during the prohibition years, and when he returned to Toronto he was wealthy enough to ignore the family he so reviled. He built the rambling house on his piece of family property on the Lost Channel, but only lived there for eight months before he disappeared permanently.

Or so they said. That was eighty years ago, about ten years before Frank was born. Eighty years of legal stagnation before Frank found out he’d inherited the place.

“Well Dad, what are you going to do with it?” asked his son Bruce, feet propped up on the heavy wooden table, a glass of fine wine in hand.

“To tell you the truth, I haven’t the foggiest idea. It might have been fun to raise the four of you here, but you all have families of your own now. Calli’s off to Cape Breton and loves it there. Ted’s in Ottowa with Jackie and the twins. Cora and her husband are almost empty-nesters themselves. And you, after building that monstrosity of a log mansion, I don’t think you’ll be uprooting and moving here.”

Bruce shook this head and chuckled. “I don’t suppose you want to ramble around here alone? Maintain the place long enough to get all four of us to get our schedules organized enough to all come for Christmas?

“I used to spend Christmas up here on the channel. But that meant hiking or sledging in, and staying warm by the wood stove and heavy blankets. I suppose selling it is the only thing that makes sense. Maybe we’ll have one family get-together, one week where we turn everything on and you guys and your cousins can all explore the place. Maybe find some clue as to where Jack disappeared to.”

Frank watched Bruce poke around the shelves, heavily laden with dusty bottles.

“I can’t believe that door went undiscovered all these years,” said Bruce, selecting a bottle, reading the label, then putting it back on the shelf.

“Well, it’s not like many people tried. Jack hated everybody. He didn’t build this place to have a family, he built it so he wouldn’t need anyone ever again.”

Bruce paused in his search, looking closely between two of the shelves. “What is it Bruce?”

“Speaking of hidden doors…” Bruce pulled at the wall. A section moved, obviously a door of some kind, but it was stuck. “Huh… it’s like the latch broke…or fell off on the inside.”

Frank watched as Bruce worked the mechanism with his Leatherman. After a few minutes he managed to pull it open.

A putrid stench filled the room.

Bruce coughed and pulled his shirt over his mouth. He shone his flashlight around the tiny chamber.

“Well…” said Bruce through his shirt. “We solved one mystery at least.” He coughed and backed away. “We found Uncle Jack.”

Yeah…I don’t usually get that gory! This was written for a prompt from Write on Edge. The words “cellar door” and there was a photo of a propeller  I loved the photo, and yet it didn’t quite make it into the story.

I do have a great uncle named Jack who disappeared for a while during prohibition, but he had a big family who loved him. I just found his grand daughter on facebook a few weeks ago… I should ask her if she knows anything about his prohibition-era activities…

Vanilla Pudding

Image Fishnet Stockings courtesy of Sebastian Dooris (via Flickr Creative Commons) This image was the story prompt for Write on Edge this week.

“Ninety-Nine!” Louisa yelled as the pain in her thigh gave way to pain in her hip, spreading quickly as her muscles gave out and she crumbled to the floor. At least, she thought she yelled her safe word, but what came out of her throat was some strangled groan that held no resemblance to her own stage-trained voice.

Instantly Eric’s gentle arms were around her. He lifted her so she was leaning against him instead of slumped on the floor. His fingers fumbled with the silk scarf that bound her wrists, then he gently removed her blindfold.

“What happened? Are you all right? Did you get a cramp?”

Louisa’s mind was racing, trying to figure out why her muscles had suddenly rebelled against her. He’d been teasing her with the flogger, gently running the tails over her skin until she tingled with anticipation. She loved it when he spanked her. Eric had a way of reaching that perfect place, right where the curve of her buttocks met her thighs. And he knew his timing… he always let the sensations sink in a little before swatting her again.

But the pain she was experiencing wasn’t erotic at all. Still, she let it wash through her, experiencing it but not holding on to it, just as she’d learned to do with the pleasurable pain. Soon, it had passed, so completely that she almost wondered if she’d imagined it in the first place.

“Louisa?” Eric asked. She realized that she hadn’t actually answered him, although her body language would have let him know she was processing pain, just as she did when the flogger snapped just so.

“I’m OK now. That was strange… like a cramp or something, but it wasn’t just one muscle…” She stretched and flexed her arms, then her legs. “I don’t feel the cramp anymore… just… odd.” The odd feeling was something she couldn’t put words to. It seemed there was something wrong, somewhere, she just couldn’t tell where and she had no way of describing it other that “odd.”

“I think you should probably lie down. Just to be safe…” That was Eric. Ever protective, and ever conscious of every little twitch her body made.

“Well, I’ll lie down… but we’re not finished yet…” she stood up, using his strong shoulders and making sure her breasts swayed tantalizingly close to his face. “Maybe just a little vanilla though… no more kink.”

“Vanilla…” he jumped to his feet, returning moments later with a tub of vanilla pudding. “I like vanilla too!”

This was written in response to the Write On Edge prompt that is the picture above. Coincidentally, it instantly made me think of the main character in my story The Peanut Gallery Rebellion. In the story, Louisa is coming to terms with a debilitating illness and the strain it puts on her family. For someone who used to enjoy bondage for fun and sex, it is frustrating to find herself bound by her own body against her will.

The Peanut Gallery Rebellion is my entry in the America’s Next Author contest. We’re not only judged on the merits of our story alone, but also on popularity and marketing. I need to get as many people as possible to go to the site and click “VOTE” for me! There’s no log in required to do so, although if you want to create a log-in so you can add a review, that would be incredibly awesome and much appreciated! You can also read the story on the site, and even download if you like.

This is what the contest page will look like. Clicking the image is a link to my page on the contest site. You can vote for each author ONCE during the course of the contest, and you can vote for as many different authors as you like.

The shortlink to this post is http://wp.me/p1rMYd-p4