Between the ages of 6 and 10 I did not eat dinner at the family table. Being that there were usually 11 people eating dinner, and we all did not fit at the table, my brother Lawnwhisperer and I sat in old wooden desks that were off to the side of the kitchen. We called them the satellite tables. We were truly the middle children, cast off and forgotten at dinnertime discussions. We had it good then.
The dinner table was of average size with a chair at the head of the table where my mom sat and to her immediate right, on one of the long benches, sat my dad. The rest of the kids sat on the bench with my dad or on the other bench on the opposite side of the table. My sister sat at the other head of the table. Somewhere around the age of 11, I was moved to the kitchen table. I never realized how good the satelitte desks were.
Since my dad and I were the only two lefties in the family, I had to sit to his immediate right to prevent any elbow bumping from anyone else. The problem with that spot, was, it was dead center of the table and was considered the “passing lane”. Anytime someone wanted something they asked me. “Bill Can you pass me the salt?” “Bill, pass the mashed potatoes.” “Bill, pass the ketchup.” This interrupted my eating every night on a regular basis. The passing requests started right after everyone had their first servings or after they had finished and wanted seconds. In an effort to enjoy my meals I usually ate very fast.
Eating very fast and being in the passing lane caused me lots of grief. We had a rule at our house; you had to eat everything on your plate. If you did not you had to sit at the table until you were finished. Some meals you could be sitting there all night. Most nights this was not a problem I was a pretty good eater. But some nights, like the Bean Soup Episode of 1982, I was in a very bad spot.
My dad loved bean soup, the rest of us, not so much. One night my mom made bean soup. We all had to eat at least one bowlful. Since it was bean soup I could not eat it as fast as I usually did. I finished about two thirds of my bowl when the passing requests started. My brothers wanted every, and any type of condiment to mask the flavor of the bean soup. I was so distracted passing the salt and pepper and ketchup back and forth that I did not see my brother Kevin empty the contents of his bowl into mine. Kevin asked to be excused and he left.
I started eating my soup some more so I could get up from the table. I was almost finished when the passing requests started again. I think my brother Dan, who watched Kevin, got my brother Dennis to distract my parents. As they were distracted and I was passing the rolls, they emptied their soup into my bowl. My bowl was full again. Dennis and Dan were excused from the table. I couldn’t say anything to my parents because most times my siblings and I had some kind of code about getting each other in trouble. I also did not want to be a tattle.
Slowly, everyone else finished and were excused, except for me and my brother Pat. Pat was always the last to finish, but on this particular night Pat finished before me. I sat at the table for what seemed like 3 hours trying to finish 4 servings of soup.
To this day, I still cannot eat bean soup.