How hard could have been for my mother to remember what my brother and I wanted on our sandwiches? After all, we both wanted liverwurst. Of course, he wanted the Butcher’s Branch liverwurst, which was sliced. Whereas I wanted the braunsweiger that was a spread. Of course, there was the type of bread for her to keep in mind. Now who was it that wanted wheat, and who wanted white?
When it came to which kind of pickle to put on the sandwich, it was simplicity itself. Dale and I both hated sweet pickles and bread and butter pickles. Dill pickles were, and even to this day are, the only pickles Dale and I will eat. Of course, one of us wanted pickle on the liverwurst sandwich and the other didn’t. (Which was easy, really, because Mom just had to remember it was the opposite of the one who wanted dill pickle on a hamburger and who didn’t.)
Now, Mom could get the liverwurst right, and the bread right, and the pickle right, and even remember which sandwich should be sliced and which shouldn’t. None of it would matter if she got the mustard wrong.
My brother Dale preferred French’s mustard, which was a tad spicier than my Morehouse brand mustard. And if you think we couldn’t tell the difference, then you have gravely underestimated the nuanced elementary school palate.
I continue to be astonished that not only did our mother listen to our finicky requests, but that on a fairly regular basis, she fulfilled them. It’s almost more astonishing than a mother’s capacity to clean up vomit or endure scoreless soccer matches.
My mother could remember all of our dry cereal preferences, how dark we liked our toast, the right cheeses for grilled cheese sandwiches, who liked cinnamon on applesauce and who didn’t, tomato soup or chicken noodle, green or red apples, chips or pretzels (and about those chips – corn or potato), and she knew who preferred low fat and who preferred non-fat milk.
I think of my mother while making lunches for my kids. The boy, the oldest, wants peanut butter and jelly on wheat bread, strawberry jam and only Skippy peanut butter – CRUNCHY. The middle child, girl, would like a piece of steak, but if she can’t have that, she’ll settle for no more than five and no less than three pieces of salami on a flour tortilla. The youngest girl – ham, lettuce, Monterey Jack cheese on a hamburger bun.
I sometimes wonder what’s a more fitting cosmic retribution for those liverwurst sandwich demands: my children’s lunch orders or occasional bouts of gout?