Wednesday, September 30, 2015
Dad And Dandelions
Sometimes I tell my students stuff about my family I don't think they believe, seen through their 2015 eyes. This is one of them from November 14, 2011
To listen to Tony Joe White sing Polk Salad Annie, please copy and paste the link below!
Each Monday through Friday, I eat lunch with our elementary teachers, which means with a bunch of lovely ladies. On Friday, Katy Shirley related a tragedy concerning a couple who tragically ate mushrooms from their backyard that had been added to soup. I mentioned my mother's family eating polk salad picked wild in rural Arkansas and to my surprise, none of them knew what I was talking about. I mentioned one of the greatest songs ever, Tony Joe White's Polk Salad Annie, posted at the top of the page; none of them had ever heard of it. I tried to describe the turnip-green like plant but to no avail. What was amazing to me was that all these women are from the south and I just assumed all southerners knew polk salad. I was mistaken.
When we were kids, I had amazing and a different kind of parents than I see with many of my students. Much of it has to do with life in a small town versus metropolitan living. Some has to do with my parents being raised through The Depression and growing up with a frugal outlook. With that in mind, we did not always eat what the other kids ate. My mom was a southerner so we dined on grits and cornbread and black eyed peas. That's pretty mainstream even though not part of the cultural landscape of Nebraska. But Dad thought outside the box. He got the idea that if my mom's family could eat polk salad, we could eat dandelions. And so, he would pick and cook dandelions as if they were turnip greens. I don't recall if they made us eat any. My contention was that there were dogs in our neighborhood and we all know that dogs mark their territory and....................... You see where I'm coming from. But our father was in effect killing two birds with one stone- lawn maintenance AND supper.
You know, this really isn't an entry about polk salad or dandelions or even Tony Joe White and one of the greatest songs ever. It's about family. In classes this semester, I've told the students how my mom had no name for six months after birth and how my great grandparents were immigrants from Denmark. If they were listening, they've heard how I scared my brother, Dave, to death one night and that my maternal grandparents got married when my grandmother was only fifteen. They found out my second cousin, Caleb, made it to the final round of twenty-four on American Idol and that I was born in Brooklyn and Mom could see the Statue Of Liberty out of her hospital window. Every family has stories and legends and tales which tie them together or in the sad cases, tear them apart. The Bible tells us that our Father set the lonely people in families. Our families define our perspective on life and our outlook for both this life and the one to come. My dad turned into a good cook when Mom's Alzheimer's left her incapable of the simplest steps in the kitchen. Dandelions weren't his best dish but it's a reason why we loved him. He wasn't afraid to be different but more importantly, he wasn't afraid to show his love to his wife or kids or the Lord. And he always put food on the table, even if it sometimes came from the backyard.
Applicable quote of the day:
"The family. We were a strange little band of characters trudging through life sharing diseases and toothpaste, coveting one another's desserts, hiding shampoo, borrowing money, locking each other out of our rooms, inflicting pain and kissing to heal it in the same instant, loving, laughing, defending, and trying to figure out the common thread that bound us all together."
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Posted by Steve Hawley at 8:19 PM