Hands bubbly in dishwater I stood at the kitchen sink incorporating my mom’s dishes into my own. As I washed my newly acquired cut glass serving bowl I visualized it brimming with 5-cup salad, a Christmas specialty of my mom’s. I pictured the fluffy marshmallow, pineapple and mandarin orange creation, and before I knew it I was crying alone at the sink. Not little misty tears – big cascading sobs. My mind’s eye drifted over the sumptuous Christmas feast my mom prepared each year as I rinsed the dishes: the oval platter which held the turkey, the Franciscanware apple pattern bowl of stuffing…and here’s the green gravy boat…the individual silver molds into which my mom painstakingly smooshed the Oriental salad. One year while mixing the cream cheese into the dates and cherries an unexpected ingredient was thrown in or, more accurately, slipped off. Before mixing the salad my mom sported a Band-aid on her finger. Uh oh! We never did find that thing! Can’t think of Oriental salad without wondering who got the Band-aid…and who graciously kept it quiet.
As my nostalgic thoughts switched to my dad, I remembered my mom popping Pop’s popcorn every night of her life while I was growing up. The little red pot took its place on the burner next to the big chrome pot on the stove. No microwaves back then. Vigorous and continuous shaking of popcorn in hot oil kept the kernels from burning while the butter melted in the little pot. These days, however, I never pop popcorn without Mr. Redenbacher’s microwave recipe, so I can’t fathom a need for this tiny red pot. But I had to have it. So I do.
The name “Pop” could quite possibly be synonymous with “butter” because my dad doesn’t just like butter, he loves butter. Nowadays my dad continues to eat all his meals with his tablemate of 69 years – his wife, my mom. That hasn’t changed, but what has changed is the locale: the dining room in assisted living. Same spouse, different dining room, but same main ingredient: butter. Pop never runs out of butter because he stealthily steals the individual pats of butter and stashes them in his mini-fridge just in case he needs them at his next meal. He takes a pocketful to every lunch and dinner.
One distant dinner comes to mind: My husband and I had just begun to date, and my parents took us to Red Lobster. After my dad ordered his whole live lobster he whipped out a stick of butter from his suitcoat pocket. I thought I would die! He handed it to the waitress and asked her to melt it for him. Yes, Pop loves his real butter. No margarine for him. And apparently, no cholesterol trouble because Pop’s 90.
Popcorn, butter. Lobster, butter. Everything, butter. I think my dad would be hard-pressed to choose between popcorn or lobster as his favorite butter buddy. I examine my new/old lobster warming dish as I wash it. The paint on the bright red lobster hasn’t faded much at all in 60-some years. On special occasions I remember my mom serving my dad lobster at home. Mom poured boiling water into the bottom dish which melted the butter in the top dish. No one eats a whole lobster as my dad does – no one. It’s a sight of beauty…and repulsion…when he relishes every morsel down to the green guts. I first witnessed my dad’s dissection of dead lobsters when I was a little girl at Iacomini’s and Sanginiti’s in Akron, Ohio – local Italian restaurants. And that is also where I tasted my first lobster. To this day I love lobster dipped in real butter. I have gone so far as to request real butter instead of the oily imitation some restaurants serve – I am my father’s daughter – but I have not yet stashed a stick in my purse. Remembering my big, tall father in his best suit sitting at the fancy table wearing a funny-looking lobster bib almost always brings a smile.
Except for this day, of course, when butter memories form slippery tears.
Copyright 2010 Maureen Locher