The Last Straw
I was always a different kind of child. Yes, I know, you are all thinking “…and you’re a different kind of adult too!” I have no idea if that was true because of my upbringing or because of the pleasing nature of my old soul. I have always had this thirst for knowledge, for fun, and for being “good.” I was the kid who when told to be home by 11:00 always walked through the door by 10:55. I did not question my parents’ authority. I took everything at face value. As an adult, I am the person that drives the speed limit, pays her bills on time, and tries thoughtfully hard not to demean or intimidate those I internally disagree with. That is not to say, however, that I was not an inquisitive kid who always wanted to be mischievous. Something always held me back – some inner voice; no, a chorus of voices led me down a different path. My influences ran the gambit.
As with most of us, my family was a bunch of colorful people. My paternal grandfather was the town Shoe Cobbler with a tiny shop on Main Street in Fortville, Indiana. On weekend visits to my grandparents, he would always take us to his shop on Saturday to treat us to an ice-cold Coca Cola out of his vintage soda machine. I can still remember the pungent smell of rubber and glue when I walked into his shop. He was a quiet, wiry little man who smoked a corncob pipe. There was always a sense of mystery about him.
He used to make pot roast with potatoes and carrots and onions in a pressure cooker. My mom was a good cook, but nothing compared to his pot roast. It was fork-tender meat in a tangy-tomato-ketchup-and something else sauce that left your mouth-watering for more. I remember asking him how it was made and what ingredients he used. He always told me it contained whatever was in the frig – tomato juice, pickle juice, Worcestershire sauce, mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar, salad dressing. I knew he was pulling my leg as the ingredients would change every time I asked. But I loved it. And for years, as an adult, I tried diligently to match the savory memory of that pot roast to no avail. Until…
I was loading my pressure cooker with “whatever was in my frig” when my husband (also a surprisingly good cook) suggested I add the leftover wine from the night before just to get rid of it. I remember thinking “Huh? Why would I do that?” But I did. And at first taste, tears flooded my eyes. That was the mystery ingredient. Grandpa was a gourmet cook long before adding wine to enhance flavor was mainstream. And on top of the thrill of discovering a childhood treasure, another realization flooded my heart.
My grandmother was a devout member of the Nazarene church. The congregation was very rigid in their religious views. My cousins were not allowed to dance, listen to secular music, shave their legs, etc. so I am next to certain that alcoholic beverages were not allowed. Grandma would have demonized liquor of any kind in her house. How did Grandpa get that wine into the pressure cooker? Oh, how I wish I could hear his answer.
I may have taken the scenic route on this discussion, but the bottom line is we are all the sum of our experiences. Good, bad, hard, sad – they mold us into the person we are. I am still oblivious, or maybe completely blind, as to how people we know do things that are totally out of their character. What is the proverbial last straw that can break your moral code? Now, crazy as I am, I am not so utterly bonkers to not understand there is no definitive answer to that question. Yet I do wonder if there is a scientifically mathematical equation of sorts that might predict such behavior.
In my next existence, I plead for Einstein's brilliance and Freud's psychological absurdity. And, if those in charge could include the madness of Mozart, just imagine how fun my blogs could really be! Should you hold your breath to know if a future me will cure the sorrows of the world? Ah, but that is fodder for yet another rant.
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Jacque Jarrett Stratman