At Easter we celebrate a time for new beginnings. We use the egg and lily plants as symbols. We see baby animals, like rabbits and lambs. We talk about how we will start anew after making all those sacrifices during Lent. Well, this Easter we all sacrificed and tried something new — dinner at my sister’s house. And was it a sacrifice!
I have two sisters. But out of the three of us, I am the one known as the cook– with the ability to cook most any kind of meal or dessert, including our tradition cajun meals. My baby sister can cook, but she’s a single parent and so doesn’t mess with cooking much, but she sure can grill and bake– all kinds of desserts! We usually get her to make some dessert for family gatherings, and my mom gets her to grill for her. But my other sister… well, I remember teaching her how to bake chicken when she came to stay with me fresh out of college. To this day, she’ll call me or mom to ask how to fix some meal for her husband or their family gatherings up there. It’s funny how we all learned to cook at differing degrees. We all took Home Ec at school, and helped mom in the kitchen when she wanted us. But I guess it’s true what they say: use it or lose it.
And my sister has lost it.
I don’t know what we were thinking. We’ve all visited her house before. Food is scarce there. They eat out most of the time. They don’t have to worry about having food for lunch or breakfast because they are usually at work during those times, and their 5-year-old daughter eats at school or daycare. But suppers are usually eaten out– McDonald’s, Applebee’s, Posada’s, Pizza, you name it. My sister does do some cooking. She has remembered how to bake chicken. She’s learned how to glaze a precooked ham for New Year’s. My husband has taught her how to cook red beans and other dry beans in a crock pot. And she’s learned how to make broccoli and rice casserole for family gatherings. But one thing she has never done is actually host a family meal.
It must have been us being tired from cooking 25 years worth of family gatherings. Or maybe we were just tired of watching her sit there while we did the work. Or maybe it was just some unnatural curiosity to see if she could do it. Or maybe, just maybe, we were challenging her to show her that she wasn’t the know-it-all liked she wanted us all to believe. But we did it. We told her that this Easter, dinner would be at her house.
At first it was just a joke. We didn’t think she would jump to the challenge. We thought she would be frightened off by the tremendous undertaking of cooking and feeding more than the 3 people she was used to. But she fooled us! She accepted the challenge without hesitation. What we didn’t know was that she had been secretly craving the chance to show us that she could be a host just like the rest of us.
So here we were driving 5 hours to her home the same day that school let out for Easter, at the most stressful time of the year for us teachers (testing time). We drove into bad weather and arrived at her home about 8 pm right smack in the middle of a tornado warning. In fact, about an hour later a tornado had touched down maybe 30 miles from where she lived. We should have taken that as a warning about what was to come, but we didn’t.
Don’t get me wrong. We knew what we were walking into. When we visited her in the past, food was “scarce”. We always had to go grocery shopping when we got there, and help her with groceries. We double her household, so I don’t mind helping with groceries. But the last time we went up to visit, I paid for all the groceries, and I cleaned her house. And was her house a mess. That little girl had strung toys from one room to the next. You couldn’t walk without stepping over or around something. And I cleaned it — and we vowed never to do that again.
She uses the fact that both she and her husband work full time and they have a 5 year old that keeps them busy — too busy to clean, too busy to cook, too busy to do anything. But I was a single parent for 15 years. In fact by the time my oldest child was 5 years old, I was divorced and on my own. Yes, I had a job of my own. I was a full time teacher, and we all know how teachers work extra hours that are not paid for. And even though my ex paid child support when he felt like it (only $150 per month total), I had to make do with expenses on my own salary. My children had food, and never wanted for the necessary things or the important things.
But here we were at her house again. And we walked in with reservations. There was nothing on the floor in all the rooms! All that was left to clean was the full dining room table and the kitchen floor. It was a start, and it was enough to give us hope.
We had stopped along the way to eat dinner at a Burger King and got to her house late, so it wasn’t until the next morning after they had gone to work that we actually looked in the pantry. Good thing I came prepared. There was nothing! Absolutely nothing! She had nothing to feed her daughter for breakfast. I guess she had forgotten about feeding her breakfast, since her daughter eats breakfast at school. A good thing we came prepared with some pop tarts. My sister lives out of the city limits, so it at least 5 miles to the nearest store.
And I had already planned on going grocery shopping to get a few necessary things when we got there. Now I was going to the store to get the necessary things like breakfast and some snacks, but also to finish the shopping for Easter (my sister had only bought the ham) and to shop for us something to eat on Saturday as well. We had driven up on Thursday to give my sister free babysitting because the school and the daycare were closed and both my sister and her husband were working on Friday. Now we were giving her free groceries too. And when we left, she still had some in her pantry. We did not leave her empty.
I did keep to my vow of never cleaning her house again. I did not touch the island in the kitchen or the dining table or the cat litter and trash on the floor. I made them do it. The most that I did do was clean up after myself, and make her daughter put away any toys that she took out while we were there. I did put up air fresheners.
I ended up having to cook on Saturday, both lunch and supper. I figured I would. I didn’t want to. Somehow I feel that the guest should not have to do those things, but my sister seems to disagree. She doesn’t just treat us this way. She treats my parents and my other sister the same way when they visit her house. In fact, my mom complained about having to clean the last time she was there, too.
We didn’t do any dishes either. They have a dishwasher, but don’t seem to use it much. Sometimes I wonder if they know how to use it. I know they do. But instead they just let dishes stack up and stack up. There were no stacks of dishes this time. But, she was slow in cleaning Saturday’s dishes. It was almost like she thought I would do them. But I put my mental foot down, and refused to do that, too. I was already cooking, babysitting, and grocery shopping. What else did she want?
I helped her daughter dye eggs, while her mother took all afternoon to clean the dining table. Either she is that lazy, or perhaps the dining table was that messy — either one, it doesn’t speak well for the condition of her house. I mean, she missed out on something to me was more important — spending time with her daughter.
Easter Day went ok. I made the deviled eggs for everyone, but she cooked all of the dinner. My husband and I made ourselves scarce after dinner, too, so she had to put away all the uneaten food, and start the dishes. My dad got a flat while he was there, so he had to go buy a tire at Walmart, so that kind of distracted her while we were packing. She wished that we could stay longer. And while I enjoy talking to my sister, I cannot stay at her house that long. A vacation should be a vacation. So we told her we had to go. And we left in the afternoon, driving home in the rain for 5 hours, arriving home to find out we had been driving in a severe thunderstorm warning and a tornado watch.
Ahhhh Home sweet home! Now, if I want to work during my holiday, it’s my choice.