Thursday, August 4, 2011
The Proper Way to Crumble Crackers
Howdy y`all, tug out a seat and have a fresh cup of coffee!
It`s funny how the most mundane things will trigger a memory isn`t it? The other night I was sitting over my bowl of chicken noodle soup (Canned since I had spent most of the day writing…I mean cleaning) and I began to crush a handful of round snack crackers into my Campbell`s. I had a sort of mental snort as I dusted off my hands as I recalled an episode from my past. This memory stars my mother and my grandmother and I think exemplifies that wonderful and absolutely crazy mother/daughter relationship. At least the wacky way it runs in my family. I come from a long line of rather intense and somewhat absurd women. I say that with great pride make no mistake. Many of you may not know this but we women of Slavic descent are a rugged, stubborn and rather humorous batch of females!
I`m a fourth generation gal of Huschuk descent and my daughter carries the feminine line onward. Now of course all that stubbornness and determination comes out in all aspects of life. My mother was about as rock-headed as a woman could be. If she said the sky was green then you had best peek out the window and agree or she would argue you up one side and down the other until, in exhaustion, you would weakly give it up and agree that the sky was indeed green.
That tenacity she got from my grand-mother. Both were Helen`s but my mother always went by her middle name of Francis, or just Fran. Every year my mom and my step-dad would make a trip out to Clairton, a small suburb of Pittsburgh, to visit my grand-mother. It was also known as ‘The Yearly Pilgrimage’ as my step-dad would call it or ‘The Trip to Hell’ as my mother would coin it. Uh-huh, you can see how things were. You put two bullheaded women in the same small row-house for three days and things are going to get interesting. In order to ensure that Clairton remained standing no visit was allowed to linger over three days. Some sort of city ordinance or something I think. Add into the mix a couple of great aunts that liked nothing better than to stick a branch into the buzzing bee`s nest that was my mom and grandma sharing an abode. There was never a dull visit in Clairton rest assured!
But for some reason that escapes me one summer my grandma decided she wanted to come out to my mother`s house. Mom was skeptical but accepting and within a week my step-dad (God bless his patient and weary soul) made the drive from Middlebury to Clairton to fetch my grandma. By this time I was married to Mister and had a wee one on the way so darn it, I missed quite a bit of the festivities. My mother though made sure I was well-informed with whispering calls made from the upstairs phone daily. They would go like this-
Me-*Picking up phone* Hello?
Mom-“Do you want to know what YOUR grandmother said today?!”
Me-“She`s related to you as well mom.”
Mom-“Don`t remind me! Can you believe she said my windowsills were tacky?!”
Me-“How can windowsills be tacky? Who even looks at windowsill that closely?
And so another salvo would be launched. Trying to be a good kid I went over one day for lunch, hoping that my presence would calm the snarling and snipping women. It worked for awhile. My grandmother fussed and frittered about me and my pregnant state. Then we sat down to eat. My step-dad was absent, smart man that he is, claiming he needed to get a haircut. That was the longest haircut in the history of known civilization but I digress….
So there we three sat, about to dig into a big pot of my mother`s home-made chicken noodle soup. Unfortunately my youngest brother decided to mosey in at this time, and not having the haircut excuse, was forced…I mean invited to share lunch with three women of the same bloodlines. No wonder the man has yet to marry.
We chatted amiably for a spell, and even though I could see my mother watching my grandmother running an assessing eye on the corners for cobwebs nothing erupted. Until my brother reached for a handful of saltines to crumble into his soup (Insert ominous music here)
“Amos,” my grandmother said as he ground the crackers between his two hands over his bowl. His lip wanted to climb up since he hated being called by his first name. We always called him Chuck, after his middle name of Charles. Fortunately for him his upper lip stayed in place and he only flinched slightly. “That is not the proper way to crumble crackers in your soup.”
“What do you mean?” my mother asked. I sipped at some broth and remained quiet as the war hounds brayed in the distance.”Is there a right and wrong way to crumble crackers in your soup?”
“Well of course there is Francis,” grandma replied. “You take one cracker and break it gently in half then get another one. Look at all the crumbs he made on the tablecloth.”
“Maybe he doesn`t want to sit here until the soup is cold breaking one cracker at a time into his soup,” my mother stated. Chuck and I began to wonder where the air-raid shelter would be in an old farmhouse.
“Well maybe if you had taught him to break his crackers the right way when he was a child he wouldn`t be such a messy cracker crumbler now.”
Where the hell were the Civil Defense helmets when a person really needed them I wondered? I readied myself to dive under the table to avoid the fallout. Chuck just sat there with cracker dust on his palms and a stupefied look on his face. Poor males, they don`t stand a chance do they?
“Maybe I don`t give a tinkers damn about a few cracker crumbs on the table MOTHER!”
At this moment in time my step-father sauntered in, his head freshly buzzed down to the wood as he likes to say, another innocent victim of the mother/daughter holocaust in the making.
“Well maybe if you did your windowsills wouldn`t be so tacky FRANCIS!”
Due to my trying to not describe anything overly violent or gruesome or over a PG-13 in this here blog I won`t go into any of the horrors that occurred that day. Suffice it to say that my step-dad learned to always peek through the window to see if there was a mushroom cloud visible before entering the house. My brother did not ever become a one cracker-crumbler and to this day I think he has nightmares about saltines and chicken noodle soup. And I had learned the most important lesson a woman can learn-Never get cracker crumbs on another woman`s tablecloth.