Thursday, December 25, 2008

It Hurts to Be Big

Len Klein
Memory Sketch # 02,
December 2000

We used to heat up all of it, mixed together in the large aluminum pot, on the kitchen gas range. It happened on Saturday nights, when our mother and father would go out somewhere. I don’t know exactly where they went when they went out, but I always wished that they wouldn’t go, and I just couldn’t wait for them to get back. But, there was nothing I could do about it, and my objections were silenced when my mother kept telling me that I was such a big boy to be able to watch my little brother, and how proud she was of me. Well… once she said that, I wasn’t going to tell her how much I hated it when they went out, and how I felt like crying most of the time they were away. After all, I wanted her to be proud of me, and I wanted to be a big boy, but it was really hard, so hard. My mother seemed especially happy to get dressed up to go out and she used to ask us how she looked. Once she asked my little brother, Arnie, who was looking at her admiringly, how she looked, and he said that she looked very good but she was all bumpy.

Just before they would leave, my Dad would bring up containers of Chinese food for us to have when they left. There was plenty of Chow Mein and Won Ton soup, with noodles and hot mustard. So, after we said our goodbyes, we started on the Won Ton soup. We would carefully measure out everything making sure there were equal amounts of Won Tons in each bowl. Sitting at the kitchen table, we slowly consumed the hot soup, which smelled so good and tasted so delicious that we almost forgot that Mom and Dad were out. After we finished, we usually tried to wait a bit, but it was never too long before we started to prepare the Chow Mein. I would get out the big pot, put it on the range, and put all the Chow Mein into it, then we’d pour in all the noodles followed by all the mustard from the little container. I added a little water and setting a low flame, we slowly heated up the mixture, while I kept stirring it. Sometimes Arnie would take over, but he had to stand on a kitchen chair when he did it. The whole kitchen got to smell really great as the pot heated up. When it was ready, I turned off the burner, and we proceeded to dish out the Chow Mein into the bowls we had used for the soup, always taking care that everything was equal. It was steaming hot and smelled so good that we couldn’t wait to dig in. It was the best Chinese food there ever was and we loved it. Of course, sometimes, we put in too much mustard, like when there were two little containers instead of the usual one. Then the food was really hot and spicy, and we cried as we ate it.

Eating our Chow Mein meal was the high point of the night. Once we had finished, no matter what else we did we were slowly sliding into loneliness for our parents. Even when we moved the kitchen chairs aside, and took the bed pillows to use as sleds on the kitchen linoleum, it was only good for a while. Arnie usually went to sleep earlier than I did, and that was the loneliest time of all. What’s so good about being big if it means you have to wait tearfully for your Mom and Dad to come back home?

Now I understand why my dad (Arnie) eats Chinese food the way he big pile all mixed together.

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