Pink Salad and a Paper Plate

A few summer days of my childhood were spent just down the road and to the right of my home. It was easy enough to walk to if you cut across a field owned by a church, but mostly my mother would pack us up in a car and we would drive to her friend’s house, who as it happened, had children around the ages of my sister and me. There was a pool. There was a piano. There was the latest gaming system where I attempted to master “Donkey Kong”. There was also a Siamese cat that was always suspicious of me, and me always of it.

I assume that most people have memories fixed in their minds of certain events in their lives in a way that hold particular moments in time captive. That in some way when they return to those moments in their thoughts, they travel through space and time and are transported there, and also bring that place and those remembered to the present. I assume, perhaps incorrectly, that if a moment lives in your memory, it lives also in the current goings on in life. One such memory for me is of pink salad and a paper plate.

We had a pool side picnic. My mother brought, as she often did to such events, a concoction of Jello, marshmallows, pineapples, and maybe even cherries (I have not had it in such a long time). My sister and I could not get enough of the stuff. After meals when it was served, it was not uncommon for her, and me, to have a plate of only pink salad for dessert. The four kids were at a picnic table. The older boys on one side and the younger girls on the other. My sister had her paper plate of pink salad and Brian decided to swim. Thinking that was a good idea, I got up from the table also.

What followed was my first lesson in physics. My first hint that sometimes laughter may need to be suppressed. And also, my first realization that mothers do not always care about intent when angry about results. As I got up, the picnic table acted like a see-saw. A very powerful, well oiled, see-saw. The result was my sister and our friend were flat on their backs, and I can still see pink salad covering my sisters chest. Of course she cried and of course I laughed and of course Brian and I were to blame. What is funny to me as a parent now, is hearing my mother defend Brian vehemently and Brian’s mother, Janice, take up my defense.

Those times were good times, and because of those good times, these days are good times. This whole story started out as an ode to Janice Bruce and how she has been a friend to my family. A friend to me. When I realized there was no way I could recount what she has meant to me over the years or what little things she said which affect me still today, I thought it best to write about pink salad and a paper plate. I would love to end the story with a great quote about not knowing how you are going to affect people and the mysteries of the Universe and the Creator, but I must say this.

Janice told the first “Dad Joke” I ever heard. One of her kids had an issue on a particular day with their shorts riding to high. They, as any kid would, reached around, grabbed the back of their shorts and proceeded to pull them out of what we called as children, their crack. Janice asked them,”Are you going to the movies?”

I was excited. Back then, movies were a great treat. They answered “No.” (I have to believe this was not the first time they had heard the joke).

She then asked, “Then why are you picking out your seat?”

As for the kids in the story? I believe we have all turned out well. I believe we all have love in our lives that transcends what we could create on our own. It is not that our mothers’ love is what sustains us, but it is that they taught us seek a sustainable love. A love untouched by anything in this life but which provides all that is worth gratitude. And one of the things I am most grateful for, is Janice Bruce. Just another name to some, a gift from God to me.



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