Sunday, January 17, 2010

I finger getting stuck in the kitchen table

…getting my finger caught in the tube leg of my parent’s new aluminum/Formica table when I was six. We lived in McAlister, Oklahoma. My mom owned and taught a private kindergarten in our converted garage and my dad was a mailman on the railroad (approx 1953 – the mailmen were on the train in a special postal car and picked up mail along the stops and sorted it as they went along to deliver to the next city down the line).
Like all kids, I had my favorite foods and non-favorite foods. Remembering that this was ‘50’s Oklahoma, some of my favorites were fried catfish with ketchup, ketchup [ketchup went on most everything] and white bread sandwiches [there was only white bread – no choices as I recall), lard and sugar on white bread sandwiches [if you like eating the white stuff –lard and sugar-out of the middle of Oreo cookies – then you would have loved those sandwiches, corn on the cob, fried chicken and hot dogs. There were a multitude of things I didn’t like, as my Mom and Betty Crocker [1953] conspired to provide recipes for such God-Awful dishes like Liver and cream sauce, spinach and vinegar, cottage cheese [ok with lots of sugar and pineapple – but not so much with pepper like my Dad preferred] and of course, the ever popular: lima beans with shredded carrots in lime jello.
It was one of those nights when I was pushing food around in my plate, hoping it would evaporate. [Note: back in the day, kids that didn’t eat their food were told that there were starving kids in China that would love to have it and that you would a) sit there until you finished it or b) go to bed right now and it would still be sitting there when you came back to the table for the next meal]. I almost got out of it once when I suggested that since my Dad was a mailman – why we didn’t just mail the liver and onions to the starving kids in China. Since I hadn’t seen buttermilk (with pepper for my Dad) spew out of an adult’s nose before, I figured I had hit on a solution. It, however, was just a temporary reprieve, until my parents quit laughing and choking. So, there I was one night pushing food around and running my hand around under the brand new, bright yellow, aluminum and Formica dining table my parents had just purchased. [Note: this was when perfectly good imported English oak tables were tossed out to the dump to make way for the sleek new aluminum and Formica furniture – wow – what a wise decision that was] So, finding a little opening in the end of one of the aluminum table tubes, I tried to poke my finger into it. As I had been stirring the cream sauce on the liver with said finger, it slipped right in. Therein was the problem. The finger wouldn’t come out. The more that I struggled with it, the more my finger started to swell making it impossible to remove.
The moment finally arrived when I had to eat or go to my room to await another chance to eat the liver another day, but couldn’t get up. I didn’t want to say why, so I just kept getting deeper in trouble for not getting up. Just as my Dad grabbed me by the arm to jerk me up from the table, I was forced to scream out “My finger's caught in the table”. My Mom and Dad tried squeezing, pulling, 3-in-1 oil (like WD-40), butter, lard, and prayer. Nothing worked. The more we struggled, the more my finger swelled hurt, and the louder I cried. Eventually, my parents had no choice, but to call the fire department. A big red fire engine with lights flashing arrived, attracting all the neighbors. After the firemen quit laughing, they proceeded to try all the firemen tricks, but to no avail. After much discussion, it was decided (over my Mom’s protests) to use a hacksaw and cut the leg off the table. At the time, I thought my Mom’s anguish and protests were for her fear of me getting my finger cut off, but I suspect now that it was truly in anguish over losing her brand new modern aluminum table to a hacksaw.
So, they cut the leg off my Mom’s new table and threw the junked remains into the backyard. They jammed my hand with the six inch aluminum pipe stuck to it into a bucket full of ice for a half hour and voilla’: my finger popped right out. I got to ride on the fire engine with all my friends and was the hero of the neighborhood. My mom eventually retrieved another oak table and mourned the lost “modern” updated model for quite a long time, and oddly enough, never fixed liver and onions again. Our family did, however, endure many more “jello with mixed vegetables” dishes. I have yet to see a Formica/Aluminum table on Antiques Road Show.