“Get up. What are you doing sleeping?”
My mother nudged me until I lifted my head, heavy with sleep, off the couch cushion. I tried to focus on her, but my eyes were blurry and she was so loud. I didn’t need to see her anyway. After twenty-0ne years, I knew what she looked like.
“Why are you home? You’re not dressed. Go get dressed.”
Couldn’t she see I looked a lot like death? Besides, I was dressed. I retracted my limbs into my big red sweatshirt like a turtle hides in his shell.
That red sweatshirt was my favorite. I got it on a family vacation one summer. It had MAINE written across the front in a bright blue chunky font. I remember buying it on a cold New England summer night. I wasn’t prepared for the cool winds blowing off the ocean or the fact that in Maine, you dress for fall in the morning and shed clothes throughout the day until you’re left looking like beach bunny by two o’clock in the afternoon.
I went in and out of little shops in search of just the right sweatshirt. Those hole in the wall tourist traps saw me coming, my shivers were almost audible, but I had to find the perfect balance between baggy and soft. Then I saw a stack of neatly folded thick red cotton, and I knew. This was the perfect sweatshirt.
I kept wearing that sweatshirt through high-school, college, marriage, and two babies. Then the holes had holes and the shredded garments of the 80’s were long out of style. I’m still a little sad it’s gone. I remember those letters written in blue – MAINE.
One day I’ll fall in love with a sweatshirt again, but it hasn’t happened yet.
That day on the couch, so many years ago, fever raged and my mother roared. She was so insistent I dress for our dinner guest, but all I could promise is that I wouldn’t die, curled in my spot on the couch, until after he left, whomever he was.
“John. It’s John from church. You know him. He’s coming to fix my lamp.”
The lamp was the holy grail of 15 Dudley Place, a wedding gift my mother told us. She guarded it with her very life. We kids knew not to mess with it. We lived in fear of breaking the lamp.
The time Bobby Brady broke the vase because he was playing ball in the house put the fear of God and my mother, the Knight’s Templar of the holy lamp, in us. We knew she wouldn’t forgive us like Mrs. Brady forgave Bobby.
That was the lamp being fixed.
Secretly I wished an earthquake would come finish the lamp before the doorbell rang and our guest arrived. I had nothing against my mother’s guest, but I knew this was more than a simple house call from her electrician. If she wanted me dressed, there was a reason. My mother always has a reason. I was too sick to outwit her though, so I rolled over and went back to sleep until the doorbell rang.
She made me sit at the dinner table with them. I remember the meal – fried chicken cutlets. I don’t think I said anything during dinner expect, pass the…
I’m a carnivore, a meat eater with the best of them. I rarely lose my appetite. John, now my husband of seventeen years, says that’s one of the things he liked best about me. I wasn’t afraid to eat in front of him. I think my appetite and maybe even the oversize red sweatshirt sealed the marriage deal.
I’m still not afraid to eat in front of him, but my meat-eating ways don’t stoop to meat flavored.
These are Man-Chips. Have you seen them? Steak flavored rigged potato chips.
My daughter and I were grocery shopping yesterday and she grabbed a bag saying I had to get them for my husband.
“He likes them.” She assured.
“But steak chips?”
I doubted. After tasting them, I have no doubt. I rather eat my meat char-broiled and slightly bloody. I guess I’m a carnivore with standards.
I’ll leave the man chips to my husband.
Please pass the fried chicken.