I was making tuna salad sandwiches for dinner the other night. The bread was all laid out on the counter, Miracle Whip (my preference) and tuna mixed and plates waiting to be filled...when I had a flashback. Standing at the kitchen island in my parent's house with a big bowl of tuna and Miracle Whip and at least three loaves of bread, white, and the blue plate. Every Friday night was the same. The blue plate loaded with tuna sandwiches was on the table covered with a dishtowel and Mom or Dad would dump a big ole bag of potato chips into the dented metal bowl (which also served as our throw up bowl when it was needed...why did we not think this was GROSS??!!) and we would all sit down and dive in.
Our favorite way to eat tuna sandwiches was to put the potato chips inside the sandwich...which I still do. Joe said he used to do the same as a child. What??? No way! I thought we invented that. Terry didn't eat tuna and he was served peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. None of us questioned it or asked for something different ourselves. I have no idea why. I remember the night he first refused to eat them though. He said "no" and my Dad said "oh yes you will or you'll sit there." And so Terry sat. Until about nine o'clock at night. Finally my Dad caved and let him get down from the table. All this from a kid who probably wasn't more than five years old. He got the peanut butter and jelly from that point on. There was never any question about what would be for dinner Friday nights. Sometimes my Mom would change it up and we'd have egg salad sandwiches but that was about as varied as it got.
And I really don't remember minding. It was all part of the familiar that was our home. My siblings and I like to ramble off the weekly menu from our childhoods...Monday casserole, Tuesday more casserole, Wednesday spaghetti or American chop suey, Thursday casserole yet again, Friday tuna sandwiches, Saturday hot dogs and beans, Sunday pot roast. We always ate together as a family, except for my parents. Most of the time there was no room at the table for them and even if there was they'd spend dinner getting up to get seconds or milk or wipe up the inevitable spill. But they were there...hovering in the background and keeping the conversations going.
We are a family that loves to talk as we eat. We'd have spirited conversations; arguing over religion, sports, politics, books and school. My aunt used to call dinner time at our house "the Cooney debating society." Sometimes someone got angry and stomped away, hollering as they went, hoping to have the last word. But more often than not, the differences in opinions were forgotten as we cleared the table and argued once again about whose turn it was to wash, dry, or put away the dishes, sweep and make up the milk.
I stood there at my own kitchen counter, remembering all this and smiling. I'm sure my parents never meant for the routines they constructed for their own sanity to be anything but that...simple routines. But for me, and I think for many of my siblings, they have become treasured memories. I wonder what simple task or food or words will become my own children's unplanned treasures?