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20 January 2008

Once Upon A Time

I started a blog. I wanted a place that my kids/husband/family/friends could come to and read what has made me ME---the family history, the experiences, my thoughts, my dreams, the stuff that I don't tell them on a daily basis. And since I am on a limited engagement, I want to get the stories down. I don't need to hold contests or win awards because my writing is rewarding enough to me and hopefully to anyone who comes by this way. WYSIWYG--What You See Is What You Get. And from now on they will not be in any chronological order or season appropriate---what story hits the mind will be in the blog of the day. I just gotta be me and keep it real.

Today's story stems from Fall 1961. My family consisted of my parents and me. We lived in the same town I do now...Belleville, Illinois. My grandparents/aunts/uncles/cousins lived in a town about 100 miles southeast of us. Every holiday up until my 14th birthday was held in Herrin, Illinois. My grandparents were not well off in the monetary sense, but they were rich with family ties and love and the needs were met. One of my uncles worked for the school district in Herrin and this is where today's story got its beginning.

We made a trip to Grandma's in October 1961 for the weekend. My Uncle Bob, who worked as a custodian for the school district, said the school cafeteria storage room had an overabundance of large cans of Spam(some type of potted meat that I wouldn't touch with a 10 foot pole!)that he was required to get rid of and wondered if my Dad wanted some to use as a supplement to the dry dog food for our 2 boxer dogs and Dad accepted. On the way back home that Sunday night, I asked when we were going back to Grandma's(and to play with my cousins, of course) and Mom said we would go the night before Thanksgiving after Dad got off work. I asked, "What are we eating for Thanksgiving?" And my Dad popped up and said, "Spam." My mother admonished him with a "Luke......" and that was the end of that subject, or so the parents thought.

The first part of November our 2nd grade class had to do a story paper. A story paper was a large sheet of paper in which the top part was blank and you could draw a picture and under the blank spot there were lines where you could talk about the picture. Miss Beverage asked us to draw a picture and tell what we were looking forward to about Thanksgiving. I was not looking forward to anything because we were just having Spam. Dogs eat it so it mustn't be any good. So in my best 2nd grade crayon abilities, I drew a facsimile of a turkey with my brown crayon and put a big, black X over it and then drew a pink lump and wrote SPAM on it(I had never seen the Spam, but I didn't like the color pink because it looked like the yukky medicine I got when my stomach hurt(Peptol Bismol)so I decided yukky Spam must be like the yukky medicine). I then said I didn't look forward to Thanksgiving this year because all we were going to get to eat was Spam.

Well, Miss Beverage had been not only my 2nd grade teacher, but my Kindergarten teacher as well, and we had grown quite close. After school that day, she took my story paper to the principal and shared that little Vanessa Gail was not looking forward to Thanksgiving because all she had to eat was Spam. Mr. Parrish, the principal, said something had to be done and he called a teachers' meeting. They decided to donate a Thanksgiving Dinner to little Vanessa Gail's family. They drew up a menu, donated items to make the menu and Mr. Parrish and Miss Beverage would deliver it to little Vanessa Gail's house right after school on the day before Thanksgiving.

I got off the bus down the hill from our house to see my principal and teacher walking up to my front door. The bigger kids at the bus stop saw it too and said, "Mr. Parrish and your teacher are at your house! You must be in big trouble! I wouldn't go home right now if I were you!" So, of course those big kids were wiser and smarter than I was, so I went to my best friend's house. Our parents were family friends and Carol spent as much time at my house as I did hers. We went to Carol's room and speculated why Mr. Parrish and Miss. Beverage were at my house and how I would probably have to run away from home. Carol said I could stay under her bed at her house and she would slip a plate of their Thanksgiving dinner under her bed for me.

And then the phone rang and I heard Joann, Carol's mother, call out, "Carol Lyn, is Vanessa Gail with you?(the usage of middle names was quite common in my day--and usually indicated you were in BIG trouble)" We walked out to the kitchen and Joann said, "Vanessa Gail, you need to go home right now. Your mother wants to see you." So out the door, across the street and up the driveway I went and at this point, a turtle could have beat me to the house. Mom was in the living room and there were Mr. Parrish and Miss Beverage. Three adults against one little 2nd grader was not good. Mom said, "Vanessa Gail(when Mom said Vanessa Gail, it was really bad) Mr. Parrish and Miss Beverage came to visit me today and brought several boxes of groceries and a huge Thanksgiving turkey as a surprise for us because you wrote on your story page that we only had Spam to eat. Why did you write that?"

The waterworks began. I sniffled, snotted, choked and cried, "Be-be-because in the car on the way home from Grandma's, sniff, sniff, I-I-I asked what we were going to eat for Thanksgiving and Dad said Spam."

I had never seen my mother's face change so fast from sterness to understanding to a smile when she realized her daughter was not a pathological liar to rage when she realized WHY her daughter had written that story paper and WHO was responsible. She hugged me and said, "OK. Thank you for telling me. Tell Mr. Parrish and Miss Beverage Happy Thanksgiving and you can go back and play with Carol until I call her mom for you to come home."

I was so confused! I thought I was in trouble for something that I didn't known I had done and now I had just told the truth on my story paper and things were so mixed up and now I didn't seem to be in any trouble.

As the story was told to me later---much later---Mom profusely thanked my principal and teacher for their thoughtfulness, called a shelter and made arrangements to have the food taken there and then Mom served coffee and asked them to wait for 20 minutes when my dad would be home from work. My mother -politely- introduced her guests,explained why they were there and the reason for the event and I heard a lot of apologizing and explaining and promises to never joke with a 2nd grader who believed every word that came from her father's lips was Gospel went on before the principal and teacher left.

Then Mom called Carol's mom and I was told it was time to come home to go to Grandma's. One very sheepish looking father asked me to sit down and explained that when he told me I was eating Spam for Thanksgiving, that it was a joke-a very bad joke and he was sorry for misleading me. I'm sure my 4 foot 90 pound mother standing there with her arms crossed and foot tapping did not add to his pleasure of having to admit to his daughter that he had made a mistake and he had to apologize.

He loaded the car and we left for Grandma's about an hour later. Funniest thing, though. Seems like all day long Thanksgiving weekend when a guest arrived, the story of what my dad did was told and resounding laughter could be heard above the roar of the coal stove in the living room. It didn't bother me...Thanksgiving dinner had all the usual food I had grown accustomed to over the 7 years of my life and I was playing with my cousins. It didn't get much better than that.

1 comment:

Pioneering in PA said...

A Spam Thanksgiving, now that's one heck of an idea!!! Excellent story, with a great moral for us parents. Especially parents who joke with their children all of the time, like we do. Just the other day I told my older son & daughter we were having calf liver for dinner. They were okay with it, as long as I served homemade mac n cheese. Go figure!