Friday, 19 March 2010
Cooking With Gas
By Olga Hebert of Confessions of a Grandma
It must have been a late spring in Vermont that year. It was Memorial Day weekend and Stu and I had taken Kevin, who was just two years old at the time, to visit Stu's parents at their apartment in North Springfield. I am figuring that it was a late-arriving spring because the week-long frenzy of spring cleaning was not yet completed when we arrived on a Thursday night.
First of all, let me explain. The annual spring and fall cleanings at my in-laws were NOT casual tidying-up affairs. They were week-long marathons of washing, scrubbing, dusting and polishing every conceivable surface of the household. Nothing went untouched. Both Richard and Pauline, my father- and mother-in-law, took vacation days from work. When they were finished, their place gleamed as bright as a smile in a toothpaste commercial.
So when we arrived that Thursday night, we found a spic and span abode and tired parents. Everything from the ceilings to the floors was spotless. The storm windows had been taken down, washed and stored. The screens had been hosed down outdoors and were ready to be placed on the windows.
That was the last thing in need of doing and it was not an easy task since my in-laws lived in a large second story apartment. The four windows in the front were relatively easy since one could stand on the roof of the front porch. All the other windows would require balancing on an extension ladder in order to get the screens secured in place. Richard had decided he would take an additional day to finish up.
Friday morning started out to be the exact kind of spring day one dreams about through a long, tough Vermont winter. The sun was shining. The sky was blue. Any clouds were white and fluffy.
Tender green leaves were popping out all along the street. Fat-bellied robins hopped around the yard. The temperature was edging upward. Pauline had gone back to work that day, but Richard joined us for a big breakfast. I had cooked a package of bacon and fried up half a dozen eggs. Stu and Kevin had buttered a pile of toast and Richard had mixed up some orange juice.
When there were only crumbs left, we went into the living room with mugs of coffee to watch a bit of the Today Show on TV.
It is nice to have a leisurely breakfast, but there was work to be done. I started thinking about the dishes in need of washing up and the kitchen in need of a return to its pristine condition of the day before. I'm sure my father-in-law was starting to think about the screens. When I went back to the kitchen with a couple of empty coffee mugs, it was obvious the leisurely, relaxed feeling of breakfast was over - so very over.
Flames were shooting up out of the bacon pan. Not being used to the gas range, I had not completely turned of the burner. Over time the little bit of flame under the pan of bacon grease had heated it to flash-point. I tried to sound calm. "Honey, I need your help in the kitchen. RIGHT NOW!"
Unfortunately, my father-in-law was already on his way in so he entered the kitchen seconds before my husband. In the Keystone Kop-esque scenario that followed, my father-in-law grabbed the flaming pan and was apparently intending to run down a flight of stairs with it; my husband stopped him and slapped a cover on the pan, smothering the fire. Clouds of black smoke continued to drift through the kitchen and my father-in-law started throwing open windows in the kitchen and adjoining dining room.
Whew! The fire was out. There was no need to call the fire department. We three adults stood in the kitchen making sure no one was burned or hurt and shaking our heads at the soot that would now have to be cleaned off the kitchen wall and cabinets over the stove. That's when the phone rang. Richard answered and within seconds was shouting, "Oh, no! Help! Hurry!"
The call was from the caretaker for the elderly woman who lived across the street. She'd left her patient out on the sun porch to take advantage of the beautiful spring day. The elderly lady, who'd had a stroke and could not really talk, was making a fuss so she went back out to the porch and found the woman perched at the edge of her wheel chair frantically waving at the porch across the way. "Did you know that there is a baby running around on your porch roof?" the caretaker had called to ask.
Stu, the calm head through all of this unfolding drama, sat on the window sill and called to Kevin who, sure enough, was running back and forth on the roof. Laughing joyfully, he toddled right back to the window and climbed back into the house. For the rest of the morning, the baby was kept under close watch. The windows were all secured and the kitchen was scrubbed once again.
Stu, Kevin and I went out for the afternoon to visit some of my husband's old school pals. I'm not sure how long it look my father-in-law to calm down again. When we got back around 4:30, both he and Pauline were sitting at the kitchen table with large cocktail glasses and a bottle of vodka.
I offered to get the supper started, but somehow no one found that the least bit amusing. Actually, I never presumed to cook at my in-laws ever again.
[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]