It was a mid-century ranch house, red brick with charcoal-colored mortar and trim that changed color every two or three years when it was painted. If you entered by way of the back door and took two steps to the left, you stood smack dab in front of the refrigerator. Though spacious to us, it was undoubtedly small by today’s standards. Our kitchen had the usual features: stove, oven, double white porcelain sinks with separate spray attachment, white dishwasher, white refrigerator, but where my mother made it Her kitchen was the table. She designed a restaurant-style booth with oilcloth-covered-for-easy-cleaning padded seats that hugged two of the wallpaper clad walls. The triangle-shaped table was covered in shiny white formica with the gold starburst pattern.
Daddy’s assigned seat was right across from the refrigerator, and to his left sat my brother Jerry (or J3 I call him). To J3’s left was my sister Jan, and as the oldest child and a teen to boot, I took the seat nearest the white rotary dial wall-mounted telephone. Mother, as you might imagine, had the seat of honor, trading off responsibility for fetching seconds for a chair and an entire side of the table to call her own.
One Wednesday night during supper, Mother mentioned that she’d agreed to house some visiting teenagers over the coming weekend. “You did what?” Daddy asked, talking with his mouth full. (He knew better.)
“Well, last week at Sunday School they asked who would be willing to take in some visiting teenagers this weekend, and before I could stop myself, I raised my hand,” she said, “so we’ll be having some missionary kids staying with us this weekend.”
Now Mother and Daddy both worked outside the home – Daddy was the entrepreneur who designed, built, and owned golf courses while Mother worked for the local Board of Education, bringing home the steady paycheck and insurance. Both of them being so busy and all could quite possibly explain why Mother forgot to mention one teensy little detail to Daddy . . . or maybe she did mention it and Daddy forgot. We’ll never know for sure, but one thing we know with absolute certainty: communication could have been better.
The next day after school, Mother handed me the car keys along with a 20-dollar bill and told me, “Jeanne, I want you to run out to Greenbriar and get me something religious looking.” The only religious looking thing I could find in that entire mall was a little ceramic loaf of bread branded with the words “Our Daily Bread” and filled with colorful strips of paper sticking out of the top.
The missionary kids got there just in time to join us for supper Friday night. We all took our usual seats, directed the visitors to the two chairs pulled in from the dining room, and Daddy kicked things off like he always did by reaching over to spear him a piece of meat. Mother slapped his hand and said, “Crawford. You know better than that. We haven’t had Our Daily Bread yet. We always start with that.”
“Our WHAT?” Daddy asked.
“Our Daily Bread,” Mother purred while shoving the container of colorful paper in his direction. “Why don’t you start us off?” When he just sat there looking at her with his mouth hanging wide open, she reached in, pulled out a red slip of paper, and handed it to him. “Read us what’s on it, Crawford.”
Daddy somehow read the words off that red paper while continuing to glare at Mother, and as soon as he was finished, Mother quickly suggested we ask one of the visiting missionary kids to ask the blessing.
Though he never warmed to the idea of kicking off each meal by reading a colorful slip of paper from a ceramic loaf of bread, Daddy did warm to the missionary kids. “Y’all want to take a ride with me on my motorcycle after lunch?” he asked them on Saturday, a question we children had certainly never been asked, a question that left us with that same open mouth glare we’d seen on his face the night before.
The religious looking Our Daily Bread mysteriously disappeared late Sunday afternoon right after the missionary kids left town, and I always thought they
stole it took it home with them to sell on the black market as a souvenir . . . until I opened my birthday present one year to find – drum roll please – the original religious-looking Our Daily Bread.
And no, we don’t keep it on our table.
And no, we don’t start each meal by reading a colorful slip of paper from it.
And no, you can’t have it. Not even for your birthday.
I’m penning 100 stories in 100 days (#100Days100Stories). There’ll be personal history, made-up stories, and I don’t know what all. If you’d like to get a helping’ of my daily potluck, mash the button in the orange box at the top of the screen and subscribe, why don’t you.