Leaving a Lasting Impression

By Linda O’Connell

On Christmas our small ranch house overflows with family big and small, young and old. Not their presents, but their presence excites me, fills me with joy and makes the holiday memories linger. Our three adult daughters, granddaughter and daughter-in-law offer to bring side dishes or help me in the kitchen. I say, “No, thank you. It makes me happy to prepare a big meal for everyone. Go visit with one another, and enjoy yourselves. I don’t need any help.”

Even though I say I don’t, I’m beginning to think I do. The evidence of the mess I made on Christmas Day was etched in silk, lace, rayon… and for sure, in the long term memories of my female family members, who I’m sure shared my little fiasco with their men folk, and now the whole family is probably privy.

When my children and grandchildren were small, I was forever cleaning messes, especially when they ate. Most of their spills could be attributed to underdeveloped motor control. Toddlers missed their mouths more than they got the food in. They spilled beverages because they weren’t well coordinated. These days though, the kids are grown and their mess making days are over. But I am still cleaning messes – my own.

As usual, our household was divided on Christmas. The guys were in the living room carrying on over a silly little football, and the women were in the kitchen discussing their men. The children were in the lower level family room playing with new toys, electronic devices or busily engaged playing videos. Aromas filled our home. Cinnamon snicker doodles and chocolate chip cookies displayed on decorative holiday trays, tempted taste buds, little kids and dieting adults. I was overjoyed to have all of our noisy, blended family under foot and under our roof.

Half an hour before mealtime, I opened the oven door and partially slid out the five pound pan of pasta in meat-laden spaghetti sauce, dripping with gooey cheese. We own a food thermometer, but I didn’t have time for a scavenger hunt through the junk drawer because of course, it wasn’t in the silverware drawer where it was supposed to be. If I had to guess, I’d bet it was outside on the barbeque pit from three months ago when my husband last grilled. I wasn’t about to attempt to take the cover off the outdoor cooker and discover a small critter family wintering under there.

Instead, I decided a taste test would be sufficient. I scooped my serving spoon to the bottom of the roasting pan and came up with a mere spoonful to determine whether the mini meatballs were thoroughly heated. Bent over the door of the blast furnace, my silk blouse gaping like my big mouth, I raised the spoon and completely missed my pie hole. The sizzling hot, marble-size chunk of Italian sausage flipped off the spoon and rolled down my chin. As I jerked up, it ricocheted onto my chest and kept travelling. I shimmied spastically as that steaming sphere rolled into my bra. I screamed, straightened up and trapped that hot mini-meatball between my flesh and the lacey fabric. I did some fancy footwork and shuffled around like one of the grandkids’ battery-operated holiday toys. When I shrugged my shoulders, that little chunk rolled to the other side, going bonkers like a pinball machine racking up points. Ding-ding-ding! I flung the spoon and reached down my blouse. Without a shred of dignity left, I fished the seared meatball off my singed chest and flung it across the kitchen and into the sink. I ripped off a yard of paper towels and shoved the wad under the faucet. The sopping towels smeared the tomato sauce clear across my chest, thus ruining my silk holiday blouse.

Our adult girls sat at the table stifling snickers. As they tried to maintain their composure, they glanced from one to the other. Their hands covered their mouths; their eyes flashed silent signals as they observed my fiasco. My daughter let loose and laughed first. Her giggle-screech evolved into a full blown belly laugh. She could hardly breathe. It’s a good thing we didn’t have to go to the emergency room that day. At first glance, Bust-a-Gut would have been assessed as inebriated. Medical personnel would have assumed I was a gunshot victim and rushed me to a trauma bay.

I shoved the pan back into the oven, and with my head held high, I headed to the bathroom for a massive cleanup and a quick change. Then I went downstairs to the laundry room, filled the sink with cold water and presoak.

After our holiday meal was devoured, the men returned to the living room, and the girls continued to make wise cracks, so I went to the laundry room to check on my blood shot undergarment and blouse. I came into the kitchen and interrupted the gabbing girls. They all stopped their conversations in mid-sentence and tried to keep a straight face. They looked directly at me when I said, “Ladies, this is very serious. I have a real problem, and I need your advice. Do any of you have a suggestion as to how I can…?”

Before I finished my sentence, my daughter interrupted, “Mom, here!” She jumped up and went to the fridge. “Just drop this ice cube into your cleavage and hunch your shoulders to keep it there, and that should relieve the pain.”

I did a slow burn and glared. “What I need is help removing spaghetti sauce stains from an expensive, lacey bra.”

The hoots and shouts from the girls in the kitchen pealed louder than the guys in the living room cheering a touchdown.

My holiday joy does not come from presents. It is derived from the presence of loved ones gathered in our home and the shared memorable moments, such as this one, that will go down in family oral history for generations.

About this writer

  • Linda O’Connell

    Linda O’Connell

    A preschool teacher for almost four decades, is notorious for holding her life together with duct tape and humor. Her greatest loves are family, the beach and dark chocolate.

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7 Responses to “Leaving a Lasting Impression”

  1. Bobby Barbara Smith says:

    You had me LOLing with this story about a run-a-way meatball! Great memory. Good writing!

  2. I’m glad you’re laughing about it now – at least enough that you could share with us to pass the giggles along.
    Merry Christmas, Linda!

  3. Val says:

    Your words paint a great holiday picture for us. That one certainly deserves a re-tell every year! Remember when…

    We had one about my sister (you know, the ex-mayor’s wife) when she was a tween. She always led the way downstairs on Christmas morning to open gifts. This time, she nearly bowled me over by turning around and racing back up the steps.

    “A RAT! A RAT!”

    It was our best gift ever, a black miniature poodle puppy, running toward her.

  4. Susan says:

    Oh Linda, that was hilarious. I’ll never again eat meat-laden pasta without thinking about the runaway meatball. Great job! Susan

  5. Too funny, Linda! Oh, my goodness! Did you ever clean up the blouse enough to wear it again? lol

  6. Erika Hoffman says:

    It’s the untoward, unexpected, unintentional moments in life that become memorable. Enjoyed reading your unsettling account of the untethered meatball!

  7. Pat Wahler says:

    My first thought was OUCH!

    I can totally see how this little gem of a story will be added to your family lore. :-)

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