Being at home all day with young children can get pretty boring. Life on most days isn’t usually filled with blood-drenched races to the emergency rooms or projectile vomiting. Sometimes kids really do just sit there and play with their toys or watch TV. I wasn’t working outside the house when my girls were young and I could get really bored. This was especially true on Wednesday nights the year they were five and two years old. Beaven was taking a class at college on those nights and there was no adult coming home at the end of the day. I decided I had to find some way to put a little zip into our Wednesday evenings.
One evening, I decided I would make dinner as different as I could possibly make it. We started out by eating underneath the table on the floor. Not really a picnic, more like and upside down dinner. I turned out the lights and lit candles. Because Emily was so young, we ate only finger foods that night. I chopped up fruits, vegetables and anything else I could find, including Bologna.
During our dinner, Elizabeth asked where Bologna came from. I never missed a beat. “Bologna”, I told her very matter of fact “comes from a shaggy animal with blue fur; kind of like Grover on Sesame Street. They’re very friendly animals. And not very big. But big enough to sit on them. As a matter of fact, my grandfather had once had a Bologna herd and he used to let me ride them. They are very gentle animals.” By the time I got this far into the story, I was off and running. And by the time the meal ended, the girls knew all about Bologna ranches and how they have three horns and one eye, and the story of how my grandfather had once rescued me from a bologna stampede.
When Beaven came home that night he went to tuck them in. He heard all about Blue Bolognas. At the end of the story, he asked them if they had believed me. “No, but we had fun telling stories,” was their answer.
I had started a family tradition. The girls and I still have Blue Bologna Dinners. It’s probably time to indoctrinate the grands but the girls and I have such strict standards we’ve been wary that the new generation may mess up our routine. A Blue Bologna Dinner is always finger foods but we always try to include a new food that at least one of us has never eaten. We always eat by candlelight, but, now that the girls are grown, it can be a challenge to sit under the table. One year Elizabeth almost caught her hair on fire leaning over the candle. So, a lot of times we’ll put the food under the table and sit slightly at the edge. But the best part is the stories. Toward the end of the meal, we always tell tall tales—the taller, the better. Our favorite is the saga of “Supercat” who always bears a strange resemblance to whatever cat we own at the time. Supercat, by day, appears very normal but rises in the night to fly through the air (with a cape, of course) swooping down here and there to rescue children from wicked mothers who won’t buy popsicles at the grocery.
The girls have grown and so have their stories. Supercat’s latest adventure included reconfiguring a hard drive when it crashed. But, always, always, the stories. You wouldn’t expect grown women with careers to spend an evening on the floor eating chopped up apples and telling dumb stories. But you might understand if you could hear us laugh. Sometimes even a really dumb tradition can serve a most sophisticated purpose. Start a really dumb tradition now.