Supper was explosive. Pinto beans dripped from the ceiling in big blobs onto the ceramic tile floor. They slid in congregation down the cabinet doors, and sizzled on the kitchen light fixture. They flooded the range hood, clogged the motor and it ground to a halt. Somewhere–maybe on the other side of the kitchen–the pressure cooker lid was resting, and who knew where the little gizmo that regulates the pressure was? Hiding out behind the frig, probably. Silence reigned except for the “drip, drip, drip” of slushy beans.
Two ashen-faced twin boys stood with eyes as big as saucers, waiting for Dad’s reaction. They needed an indication of the direction his emotions were going to go. Five-year old Wendy, living her life in a wheelchair, sat in shock watching her eight-year old brothers. No one moved.
Rotund Bob M. surveyed the scene, wishing he had looked at the pressure cooker directions. In one twinkling second he realized his wife had given him the special unction of watching their three precious children while she went on a ladies’ retreat for the weekend. He wasn’t young and immature; she trusted him with her heart, with her children, and with her home. What if she walked in now?
Supper was to have been pinto beans, green onions, corn bread, and macaroni and cheese. Dessert was a store-bought chocolate cake. Bob looked at the disaster. How can one bag of beans cover a beautiful kitchen? In two seconds flat it had turned the trendy appliances, the granite counter-tops, the glass-front cabinets and ceramic tile into a cleaning service’s nightmare. And he couldn’t hold it in any longer. Laughter came out in great waves, tears rolling down his cheeks. The slap-stick comedy of the whole scene was too much. The children, in relief, were allowed to let go with the belly laughs they, too, had been holding back.
Bob always swore for the next eight years they found beans in strange places.
This experience has been one of the memories I love the most. Not because it was the funniest thing that ever happened, but because it had so many lessons for me, and the way it was handled. We have an instant choice we can make in the midst of a gigantic, colossal, accident that will be remembered by our children for the rest of their lives. I guarantee if you saw Pete, Gil, or Wendy today, the pinto bean supper would be a memory they cherish–and their father laughing hysterically, rather than cursing.
Bob died not too many years after that. Yet the laughter he always shared was felt by friends, family, co-w0rkers and church. In the midst of heavy emotions we carry daily, like the state of our country, the deconomy (doesn’t “de- mean going downhill? Like de-scend, de-feat?) of the nation, the lack of values, the political rivalry that transcends the country’s needs being replaced with the candidate who can sling mud the longest distance, we need things that make good memories. We need to laugh, to enjoy funny experiences that will outweigh the heaviness of life. Old Johnny Appleseed knew “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” but King Solomon knew “laughter does good, like a medicine.” Everyone is on medicine. Maybe everyone just needs a good memory to make them laugh once a day.
Someone recently told the story of being in NYC, and leaving her suitcase on the back of the cab’s trunk, accidentally. It blew off, broke open, and her “unmentionables” went blowing in the wind. The cab driver…..