It was Mother’s Day. Yes, Mother’s Day. In our house that meant for once on Sunday after church my mom could relax and it was my dad at the helm in the kitchen. One thing about my dad was that he worshipped the ground my mom walked on. However, for as kind as he was my dad and the kitchen were strange bedfellows. Actually in the words of my mother, “Put a football or baseball game on please. Anything to keep your father out of the kitchen. When he is there he is trouble.”
“Alright, all hands on deck!” My father called.
We grudgingly came down the stairs. Wendell, unhappy about being tugged away from his video games, moved as if he were a slave in the West Indies fresh off the boat forced to churn molasses into whiskey. Of course there was Skipper, who had the most pep in her step. She connected with our dad the best out of any of us. Skipper never argued with him or tried to test him. Wendell and I would run our mouths or try to defy him from time to time only to lose. On the other hand Skipper was an angel. As for me, I was in the middle of the herd. I was used to having to cook. It didn’t excite me, it was my womanly duty in our home.
As we came to the kitchen my father searched like Stevie Wonder in a dark room for the cooking utensils. Banging around my mother, lounging on the John with a Nora Roberts romance called, “Honey, are you sure you don’t need me to help you?”
“I am fine.” My dad replied.
“Famous last words.” I mumbled to Wendell who nodded in agreement.
“What was that April?” Oh I was already busted.
“Nothing Dad.” I told him.
“April, you cook the eggs.” My dad commanded.
“Okay. Skipper, get me a pan.” I commanded.
Skipper walked over to where he pans were kept. Looking, the inept child found me the appropriate skillet and handed it to me. “When did you change the location of the pans to there?” My dad demanded.
“Don’t worry about it Pops.” I said as I put the pan on the stove. I marched over to he refrigator in order to get the butter needed for this uptaking. As I opened the refrigator, Wendell, who was given the task of setting the table, bumped into me.
“Watch it ass weed.” I said. After all, he had dishes and there could have been a serious accident.
“No, you watch it.” Wendell snapped. “Idiot.” And then delivered a kick to my shin. In retaliation I kicked him back and sure enough, Wendell almost dropped the dishes. With arms like Inspector Gadget he managed to save the good plates, made out of china, only brought out for special occasions, from becoming only a shell of themselves.
“Guys, knock it off.” Skipper said pointing to dad.
I went over, put the butter in the pan, and then turned on the stove. “Eggs Skipper.” I commanded. Being my usual helper Skipper handed me the carton of a dozen eggs. One by one, I began to break them. Suddenly, my dad came over to supervise the task.
“Did you wash your hands?” My dad asked. One thing about my dad was he was sometimes more or less a complete germophobe.
“Yes.” I said. I always did, especially since the old people always sneezed in their hands. They were notorious for sneezing into their hands during shake of peace. Not to mention the small children were always eating their boogers. Either way, there were probably new and undiscovered bacteriophages running around at the seven thirty mass at our church.
“Wash them again. I saw a program on kitchen safety and you can never be too clean.” My dad demanded. My dad never cooked now he was an authority on kitchen safety. Typical man.
I grudgingly went over to the kitchen sink and washed my hands again for the second time. As I was finished my dad said, “You didn’t dry them. You might get soap in the eggs.” There was at no present soap on my hand. How this would manage to be I would never know. Either way, I had eggs to finish.
Walking over to the stove I got back to my eggs. Meanwhile my dad was supervising Wendell on the waffle maker. Wendell, who barely ever cooked, had taken a liking to this new toy. At least one Sunday a month for the past three months Wendell made waffles and actually wasn’t half bad as a cook. But waffles were the only thing he cooked. Usually when Wendell used the microwave the food burnt. However, Wendell confessed to liking the taste of burned food. That I could not understand about my brother.
“Wendell, you are not cooking the waffles enough. What if we get salmonella?” My dad demanded.
“Dad, they are cooked perfectly, see?” Wendell said breaking a waffle open.
“No, they are still too soft. How would you feel if your father died from salmonella poisoning? Who would work to support your lazy I play video games all the time ass?” My dad demanded. Skipper and I exchanged a look and began to giggle. Oh this drill again. Then it would be followed by a paper boy story.
“Dad, I don’t play video games all the time. I have soccer in the morning and football at night.” Wendell said.
“I don’t know why you are still wasting your time with that soccer. Football is where America is at.” My dad observed. “Now who would pay for these lessons you get if I died from salmonella son?”
My brother, realizing he wasn’t going to win said, “No one dad. We would have to sell Skipper.”
Skipper, upon hearing this said, “Why do I have to be sold? April’s fat. She can be ground up for food.”
With that I said, “Well Skipper because you are small and ideal for a white slaver. I am getting up there in age.” Skipper, upon hearing this shut up. Oh I would get her later. All week Skipper had been plotting on how to get on the good side with mom and dad in order to do no chores. Monday and Tuesday she had exaggerated an injury. Wednesday she claimed I hit her and therefore had to do her chores for the rest of the week. This gnome was evil. She knew I meant business and would get even later.
“I will sell you all in exchange for street urchins who pickpocket if you don’t start cooking. You thankless children, this is the one day a year to serve your mother and this is how you act.” My dad snapped. Suddenly, in our arguing we didn’t realize there was smoke coming from the waffle machine. The kitchen was now filled with smoke. Oh this was going to taste of disaster.
“You idiot, you burnt the waffles! You were goofing off and look at what happened! You are a jerkoff!” My dad screamed at my brother. Oh great, one of the epic battles with dad versus Wendell. And just with the kitchen filled with smoke.
“I hate you! You make me so mad by calling me a jerkoff when you are the one who wanted me to cook the waffles better.” Wendell snapped.
“And who was going to get the salmonella because you were a jackass who wanted to leave the insides raw? Who was going to support you when the worms eat my stomach? Then again what do you care? You messed my VCR up with your Nintendo you careless brat.” My dad countered.
Now my brother was angry. Oh the epic battle of my father versus the Nintendo. “Well, you screwed up the VCR by pressing the wrong button not me. And you won’t die of salmonella because now you burnt the waffles. Happy?!?!!” My brother said.
Meanwhile I butted in by pointing out, “There is smoke in the kitchen guys. I think we need to stop fighting and open the windows.”
Just then, I left the eggs and opened the sliding glass doors in order to get the smoke out and let some air in. I also instructed Skipper to turn on the fan on the stove. After all, it could make the kitchen a little more breathable as Wendell and Dad squared off. As the kitchen cleared my mom appeared at the door asking, “Are you sure I can’t help?”
Dad and Wendell took a break from Waffle Gate to see my rather concerned mother standing there, her kitchen, her beloved kitchen with wooden cabinets, filled with smoke. “No, we’re fine. Just relax.” My dad said.
“Yup, totally under control Mom. Nothing to worry about” Wendell said backing my father up, reassuring my mother that everything was under control when it was borderline Mutiny on the Bounty. The only difference was that it was waffles, eggs and toast instead of cannibals involved.
“Aye Aye says Skipper.” Skipper replied as I flashed the thumbs up. Lie of the century but we all had to be willing to go with it. We were working together, this was a good sign right? My mom, laughing to herself, left the room.
“Let me know if you need anything.” My mom said upon her exit. I know myself and everyone else wanted to beg her to come back, take over the stove. However that was not to be. We were left alone in the kitchen. This motley crew had my mother the first mate, kvetching about having to cook. Then it had Skipper the one in charge of scrubbing the deck. Of course I guess I was Polly the Parrot. Who knew? But my father was Captain Hook for the moment despite the fact he had two hands and there was no crocodile. My only wish was that breakfast would be edible. Heck, they probably ate better rations in the Korean War.
When my mom left the Titanic began her voyage towards the ice berg again. “Okay, now what are you two doing on those eggs. April, you are not moving fast enough.” My dad commanded.
“I was opening the window because you two were in danger of burning down the house.” I pointed out.
“Enough excuses.” My dad said giving me a gentle shove. “Go butter the toast. Should have known you could handle the eggs.”
I went over to the toaster, putting the pieces of bread in. Skipper meanwhile was trapped with my father who was closer to Wolf Man than Burt Wolf. I looked over, eyeing their progress of lackthereof. I saw my dad crack the eggs and suddenly a huge shell entered the pan. I grimaced in pain. Oh this breakfast was going to make Korean War Food look like gourmet. Wendell and I exchanged a disturbed glance as my dad told Skipper, “The problem with you girls is that you don’t know good use of butter.”
My mother, had she been in the kitchen, would have had a heart attack. A fitness guru, she rarely used butter unless she absolutely had to. When she married my dad she got him eating a healthy diet and to eliminate butter. This had, of course, been a task because my Dad’s mother cooked with straight lard when he was growing up. So of course in subtracting this from my dad’s diet my mother had added a few years to his life, but alas, old habits die hard.
“Mom never puts this much butter in. This is heart attack butter.” Skipper corrected our father. She was always on health watch when it came to the members of the family, especially him.
“Well it tastes better with this much butter and the eggs don’t stick.” My dad told her.
“But what if your arteries clog? Then you won’t be able to work to support us.” Skipper pointed out as my dad began to empty what looked to be a huge vat of butter in the pan.
My dad stopped his artery clogging to examine Skipper’s well thought out argument. “And then you could die in your sleep and rigor would set in before anyone could find you. Imagine how that would ruin mom’s Mother’s Day. A sudden heart attack is no fun.” While this was disturbing as hell to hear this child, whom I sometimes think was switched at birth, talk at length about human bodily functions after death, she was a master manipulator.
“True. That would be a bad thing sweetie.” My dad said giving Skipper a kiss on the head.
My brother Wendell and I exchanged glances. “She’s adopted.” I told him.
“And she would sell poorly on the market.” He agreed.
“I heard that. Dad, they are dissing me.” Skipper said.
“Well Skipper has been the hardest worker out of the three of you.” My dad pointed out giving the little misfit a kiss on the head. Wow, what was this world coming to? The child obsessed with bodily functions got the kiss on the head.
“She talks about dead people and rigor.” I snapped.
“Well I have been reading my medical books before bed in addition to my Bible. I know what happens to my body and soul upon entrance to the after life. Therefore I am not worried.” Skipper said smiling as she helped our dad put the eggs on the plate and joined them on the table.
I rolled my eyes back. “Someone still needs to set.” My dad pointed out eyeing me. I wanted no part in the silver wear or setting. Skipper could do that and dazzle us with her knowledge of dead people and bodily functions after death.
“Skipper will do it.” I said with an evil smile. “She loves to set tables, especially those at her potential funeral.”
“And April will help being my butler.” Skipper said.
“Screw you.” I countered.
“Get to work girls.” My dad commanded.
My helped Skipper with the plates. We set five around and then gave everyone a napkin, a knife, a fork and a spoon. When she was finished I sneered at her, “See you in hell.”
Skipper, being the ultimate manipulator, went to the kitchen. As soon as she saw my dad she said, “April said I was going to hell.”
“Well April needs to do more housework, it would be good for her soul.” My dad said.
“And Skipper can keep me company talking about dead people.” I said laughing.
“Well you’re the one who wanted to publish the story about killing six people for the Lincoln Log.” Wendell snapped jumping in.
“Hey, you ruined the VCR for movie night with your video games.” I sneered.
“Now children, you are being selfish. Go get your mother. Put on some music and put some flowers on the table too.” My dad commanded clapping his hands.
Wendell went and got our mother. That was one job he couldn’t screw up. Skipper and I put some daisies we had picked and put them on the table. Of course this came with me smacking her in the head after she told me when I died all my bodily fluids emptied and therefore I would wake up in a pile of crap. I knew it was true but this was just going too far. That’s when my mother entered and Skipper said, “April hit me.”
“Is this true?” My mother snapped.
“Mom, she was talking about dead people again.” I told her.
“You wanted to publish that disturbing story. Wonder where she got that from.” Wendell snapped.
“Enough, lets say grace.” My dad commanded.
We said grace and then began to dig in. “My, my, this looks delicious.” My mom said. She sounded overexcited. I could tell she was lying. I had known the woman her entire life and she was being nice. She didn’t want to hurt my father’s feelings.
I took some waffles because there was no telling how the eggs would taste. Drenching them in syrup, they were slightly better than petrified wood. As I took a bite I stared directly at Wendell who twisted his face in utter horror. “This tastes awful.” He whisper.
“Oh that’s the understatement of the year.” I whispered back.
“Is everything alright kids?” My dad said giving us the evil eye.
“Yeah, perfect.” I said as Wendell nodded. Oh gosh we were lying.
“This is so delicious.” My mom remarked as she painstakingly took a bite of the burnt something that had now become the retarded brother of the Waffle, once in his majesty and now reduced to just above saw dust. Yes he was like Yackov Smirnov, once a huge star but now reduced to a shell of his former self as he toured the Midwest. Except the poor waffle could only dream of such a gig.
My mother then took a bite of the eggs and a huge, fake grin spread over her face. Just then Skipper helped herself to the eggs. Putting them on her plate, she began to take a bite. “It tastes good.” She said. Then a few seconds later Skipper had a disturbed look on her face. “These eggs are crunchy.”
Just then she spit something out. “Gross. There is a huge shell in my eggs.” Skipper remarked holding up the cooked version of a chicklet fetus condo which housed a would be hen but instead was sacrificed to make the mutation we called our scrambled eggs.
There was an awkward moment of silence. The strange imp who read medical books and knew disgusting faces was the only one brave enough to tell the truth about how much this breakfast sucked. My father, looked at Skipper and commanded, “Shut up and eat it!”
Skipper, who did not do well when she was being yelled at, drew a sad face, pushed the egg particle aside, and then began to eat her eggs. “They do taste better with butter.” Skipper remarked. This was probably a stab at my father who wasn’t supposed to be using the stuff. My mother, who knew there was something different about the eggs, shot my father a look of concernation.
“It’s just a different way of cooking.” I said trying to be peace keeper.
“How about you get your mother your cards kids.” My dad commanded. I had a feeling he would be hearing about the excess of butter later.
One by one we gave our mother our cards and gifts. Wendell gave her a card he had hand made. There were stick figure drawings, one which was supposed to be our mother. On the card, he was handing our stick figure mother flower’s telling her she was the best mother wishing her a Happy Mother’s Day.
Skipper gave my mom a card she had made with her second grade class as well as a packet of sunflower seeds. My mother, who loved to garden, would appreciate those.
Then I went. I gave my mom a card I had hand made as well as a set of chore coupons for things like cleaning off the table, washing the dishes or whatever else she wished.
My father, in his attempt to shop for her, got her a new dress and two new blouses. He got the size right on the dresses but guessed wrong on the blouses which had to be returned. The dress was a white flowered number, perfect for the late spring as well as the summer. With it he got my mother a matching white hat. She went to the bathroom to change and model it for us. When she came out we all awed. One thing about my dad was that, as I said, he worshipped the ground my mama walked on. Perhaps this dress was evidence.
When breakfast was over my mother cashed in on those chore coupons and had us clean off the table and do the dishes. My father, still insistent that my mom not do anything, tried to take the fort. However, my mother, knowing the man better than anyone, told him, “Sweetie, the Pirates are playing in ten minutes. I think you and your son should go watch the game.”
“I think that is a fabulous idea.” Wendell told him. After all, Wendell had lived through the disaster in the kitchen. “Come on Dad.”
“Yes sweetie. You would be a big help to me if you enjoyed the game.” My mom said with an insistent smile.
When my dad and brother were out of site it was time to help our mother wash the dishes and load the dish washer. “Please Mom, do us a favor, never let Dad cook again. Breakfast was awful.” I begged. My sister shook her head in agreement.
“Yeah, those waffles were not even edible. Never let him cook again.” Skipper said echoing my sentiment.
Instead of a promise or a laugh my mom gave us a stern look. She said, “When you girls grow up, you should be so lucky to have a man like your dad.”
Skipper and I looked at each other puzzled as we continued loading the dishes. We both had learned a lesson that day, that it’s not the gift but rather the thought that counts.
With that thought my mom insisted we get Wendy’s Takeout for Dinner.