That’s a photo of my father in 1953 when we lived on Douglas Street which no longer exist as I knew it back then. My mother likes to tell two stories about me. One shows or purports to show how creative with the truth I was at a young age. As for the second of my mother’s tales, I’ll save that one for another time.
I think I was five at the time. Apparently, we—meaning my parents, my sister who was seven, my brother who was three and I were enjoying one of my favorite dinner meals. We were seated around the dinner table in the dining room of our old house on Douglas Street. I should say right now, I don’t remember experiencing this tale myself, but I’ve heard the story so often, I could tell it in my sleep.
Knowing my mother, the home economics teacher, believed in balanced meals, I’m sure we had string beans, a green salad, a starch—baked potatoes or something like it, meat or fish, milk for us kids and coffee for her and my father. My parents believed social graces at the dinner table. That usually meant my father would ask my mother about her day, hoping he didn’t have to listen to very many complaints about our misadventures during the daylight hours. Then he’d quiz us kids about our day. I think he was trying to determine how much we’d lie.
My father watched us kid eat for a while without saying anything. My siblings and I loved our mother’s cooking. However, we ate our meals in a certain procedure. We had to eat a full serving of salad first, then all our vegetables. We always ate the meat dish last and it was followed by a glass of milk. We could have dessert if we had the space in our distended bellies for it. Judy and I separated our licked-clean rib bones from the juices, remnants of the meal served on the large, weighty porcelain dinner plates sitting in front of us.
He waited until we’d gulped down our glasses of milk and wiped our mouths with cloth napkins my mother provided. He knew my big sister was learning addition and subtraction in second grade so of course he tested her first.
“How many bones do you have on your plate?”
My big sister counted them aloud, touching each rib bone as she moved it from one side of the plate to the other with her fork. “I have seven.”
My father grinned. “That’s right. Now then if I take away two, how many are left?”
My sister frowned then looked down at the bones on her large plate. She studied them for a minute, staring hard at the plate as if she’d find the answer there. She moved two away and counted the bones that remained. “Five are left.”
My father nodded smiling her. “That’s right.” He turned his attention to me. “How many bones do you have?” He knew I couldn’t add or subtract yet or at least he should have known since I was still in kindergarten.
I looked down at the bones on my plate and then looked back at my father’s expectant face. “I have many.”
My father’s jaw dropped. I thought I’d made him angry until he started laughing. To this day, I’m not sure what made me say it. I just know back then I was glad I could make my father laugh.
Although, my father has since passed away, I’ll always remember the day I made him laugh.
HAPPY FATHER’S DAY.
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