My Dinner With Stan

food-spinach-800pxContrary to what the song suggests, Love is not a Battlefield, in truth, it is more of a minefield.

To survive, you must know the ground and step lightly.

Like the other day when I asked my wife if my friend Stan could come to supper.

The question shocked her.

“What did I do wrong?” she asked.

Hearing her reaction, I felt the click of a detonator under my foot and I suddenly realized I just stepped on something.

Like her, many people feel that having Stan over for supper is punishment. I guess it is because he has all the social grace of a buffalo stampede – still, he has been my friend since third grade and she has gotten used to him.

“No, it is just supper,” I said, feigning innocence.

“So….“ she said, pondering her next question. “am I supposed to cook?”

“Nope,” I told her.

“It is really just supper then, right?”

“Just supper.”

She was good with that.

You would be right if you suspected something explosive lurking beneath the surface of that conversation and to know what it is, you have to know something about Stan.

Stan and I grew up in a neighborhood where every house contained a half-dozen dogs and twice that number of kids.  And all of those dogs and all of those kids ran wild all the time – and no one was ever certain whose dogs belonged to who or what kid belonged to where. Still every dog and every kid got fed and cared for. It was just who we were.

One evening when Stan was eating supper at our house, my father glanced at his plate and said, “Eat your spinach.”

Stan poked reluctantly at it with his fork.

“Look kid,” my dad said, “if you don’t like the food here, go home.”

That’s when my sister piped up.

“He is home,” she said.

Everyone stopped to stare at her.

“I’ll prove it,” she said, sliding off her chair.

She trotted into the kitchen and returned a few moments later with the Chore List.

“See?” she said, holding it up.

This dreaded list contained two columns. The first column never changed. It listed all the chores that were to be accomplished on a daily basis. The second column rotated by the week. It said who was assigned to each chore.

Right there in the middle of the second column was the name: STAN.

There was no doubt about it, Stan was officially a family member.

In his astonishment, my father dropped his fork into his mashed potatoes. “How the hell did this happen?” he asked.

My mother shot him a look that told him he was walking in a minefield. Stan’s home life was not ideal, so the kid drifted from house to house.

Dad didn’t know what to do, so he came full circle.

“Eat your spinach.”

“Who could eat that?” Stan said, pointing a fork at his plate. “It’s been steamed into green glop.”

No one ever talked like that to my dad and he glared at Stan for a few long breathes… then he cracked a smile.

“The kid’s right,” he told my mom, “You always overcook it.”

She was mortified but when heads started bobbing like yo-yo’s around the table she knew what Stan and dad said was true.

After that, Stan rarely ate supper at our house. Why would he? He was in too high of demand. Once word leaked out that Stan was speaking up about the food, fathers and children for blocks around came pleading to him with invitations to supper.

My wife has never heard that story – yet she knows Stan well and knows he is never one to hold back his opinions of what is on his plate.

So, as I promised, I put supper together.

It wasn’t much, just a big salad – because at the insistence of my wife, our household is on a diet. Even the cats.

And yes, my salad contained spinach.

During the meal, Stan held up one of those leaves. “This,” he said pushing his chair back, “is what food eats. How about I take you all out for a burger and a beer?”

I was too quick to agree.

“Sit down!” my wife commanded.

“You,” she said, pointing to Stan, “eat your salad.”

“And you,” she said, leveling her gaze at me….

Like I said, love is a minefield.

Author: Almost Iowa

www.almostiowa.com

19 thoughts on “My Dinner With Stan”

  1. As I was going through the post listing for the blogs I follow, I scrolled quickly through the list to get to the oldest I hadn’t read. As I quickly scrolled past yours, I misread the title as “My Dinner with Satan”. I stopped and immediately clicked on the post, but I didn’t re-read the title. I read the post intensely wondering when Satan would show up. Then I realized it wasn’t Satan. It was worse. It was Stan.

  2. Well, Stan tried! But it sounds as if the diets are going to continue at your house….
    And thanks for the childhood memories of a time when kids were almost always raised communally. My parents had the fewest rules, so our house was especially popular. Although eating dinner at my friend Pam’s house was a special treat, because they allowed us to drink Coca Cola with our meal. A whole bottle, all for me!

  3. Being an only child, and living in a neighborhood without many kids around, the dynamics weren’t quite so — dramatic — but they were similar. Parents backed up teachers, teachers knew us as well as our parents, and the neighbors fussed and fumed at us just like family. It was a good time. One of my favorite memories involves our next-door neighbors. When my wading pool was filled up in the summer, they’d come over to check the water temperature. If they didn’t think it was warm enough, they’d heat a kettle of water and fix it right up.

  4. Growing up in Detroit had the same result. There was a rule about letting parents know if it was okay to stay over. You had to affirm that your parent said it was okay. The big black rotary dial phone stood as the verifier if there was any doubt.

  5. Our neighborhood was pretty similar when our kids were small – where’s X? Could phone Y; see if he’s there. And who are you; going to help me clean and make dinner? Everyone looked out for everyone else. If a kid was staying to eat we always phoned the parents to check. If kids were outside we watched them. Half the neighborhood came running when oldest son fell off his bike. One took the baby home. One drove me and heavily bleeding offspring (wrapped in blankets provided by another neighbor) to the doctor. One phoned my husband. Another house-sat middle kid. There’s a lot to be said for well-organized chaos.

    1. It is one of the reasons why I moved to the country, everyone around here helps everyone else. People plow each other’s driveways, if they see you working, they will lend a hand but the most amazing thing is to watch what happens if a local farmer is sick or injured, the whole neighborhood will show up to bring in his crops.

  6. You weren’t fast enough. Although it may be that you were out-drawn by the Mrs. Growing up in that moving feast neighborhood environment, not only would anyone take care of you, anyone would correct you and your folks would back them up. Today they’d all be in front of Judge Judy.

    1. SET RANT ON

      Not to get political – but Hillary Clinton wrote a book titled, “It Takes a Village” which I agree with HER wholeheartedly on the idea, I disagree with the former First Lady in that her policies implied “It Take a Bureaucracy (to raise a child)”

      I don’t hold that against her. She was just looking at child rearing from a government point of view, the problem is that parents have given up too much authority or at least given too much authority to the wrong people. When I was a kid, parents backed each other and the teachers, today, especially with children of divorce, kids, the courts and social services hold the balance of power.

      SET RANT OFF.

  7. Our Stan was Randy. we all knew he wasn’t exactly one of the family..his parents and siblings lived down the street..but he was always at our house and he had to take out the trash. lol

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