In the early years of my parents’ marriage there was this undeniable tension. No, it wasn’t that these two young adults were feeling more stress than most newlyweds, and they definitely were not fighting like cats and dog.
It was all about the sauce.
Faced with the limited funds that my Dad was making in his new role working for the city of Torrance, my Mom went about preparing simple meals that they both were satisfied with, yet Dad yearned for the special sauce that his own mother would slather over broiled hot dogs and potatoes.
My Mom experimented with different concoctions based on Dad’s recollections and descriptions, and while many of the sauces were very tasty, they just weren’t precisely what my Grandma Fulton had prepared for her kids all those years. Frustrated that she just couldn’t get it right, Mom finally cornered Grandma in her kitchen one afternoon and told her of the dilemma. Detecting the desperation in her daughter-in-law’s voice, Phoebe Fulton tried to suppress laughter, but then she just couldn’t help herself and burst out in a hearty chuckle. My Mom was perplexed. What was it, some secret family recipe that couldn’t be shared? No, it was something entirely different. Grandma Fulton was ready to reveal the answer to the mystery, but instead of dusting off a recipe book she went to the panty and pulled out the single ingredient from which the sauce of wonder was made:
Broil those wieners and potatoes, perhaps add some onion, and then just pour some of the red stuff on them.
It was really that simple.
I’m reminded of that great story every time I stumble upon the simple things in life that remove the mystery and difficultly that some times rob me of the joy I should be experiencing as often as possible.
I awake each morning in a panic. It would be very easy to blame some challenging personalities that are breathing down my neck and questioning every decision I make during the course of the workday, but the truth is that I have always been the nervous, people-pleaser sort that is overly sensitive to people liking me as well as the work that I do, and so naturally I am worried way too often.
It is in this worry that I sometimes miss things.
Mornings often have me obsessing over a project that I am working on rather than enjoying Cheerios and chatter with Trevor. Weekends are often flooded with concerns about Blue Monday fast approaching, so I miss the chance to have a great chat about life or the latest class project with Emily. Worries about past failures sometimes put me in a fog during my nightly walks with Sam and her words often sound like the distorted voice of Charlie Brown’s teacher.
Because of how I am wired I find myself missing out on the most important things in life sometimes.
So last night I poured a little ketchup on my life and just accepted my fate. Stressed or not, it was Friday night and the weekend was upon us. More importantly, the kids were performing at their school’s talent show, and I was determined to just turn off the fuzzy static in my brain for a while and live life a little.
Trevor and his merry little band of brothers sported matching outfits, donned some bright orange sunglasses, and spiked their hair as they danced and lip-synced to The Newsboys’ “God’s Not Dead.” “Cute” doesn’t begin to describe it, and as I stood there watching our little man shake his stuff I felt a wonderful mix of joy and pride.
When it was Emily’s turn I found myself a bit nervous. It was a justifiable fear, as she was to solo in front of a large gathering, and while she had done something similar only a year before, this time I found myself worried about what others would think if she bombed or got nervous and sprinted off stage like her fraidy cat Daddy might do. But there was truly nothing to worry about here. My daughter has all of the confidence that I lack and she welcomes the challenge of performing in front of others. She belted out Francesca Battistelli’s “He Knows My Name” perfectly, to the point where I couldn’t fight back the tears of joy that I was experiencing.
It was through these tears that I finally started seeing the important things of life much more clearly, and when our daughter triumphantly ran off the stage after singing her song and sprinted into the waiting arms of me and Samantha it was just one of those moments for the ages.
I don’t know what it was like at the dinner table that first night that my Dad was served his broiled dogs and taters with his “special sauce,” but I like to envision him leaping out of his chair and embracing Mom with tears of joy that she had definitely gotten it right. And then of course my Mom hugging him right back and sharing the same little chuckle that she’d heard from Grandma Fulton only days before.
I share that feeling today as I tell you that it really is the simple things in life that make you stop and say, “A-ha, I get it now!”
Ketchup, family, tears, and stopping to experience the joy of living. It really is a wonderful life!