Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Deep Fried Joy

Three worn plastic dishes side by side.  Seasonings stirred into flour to just the right sandy color.  Fresh farm eggs cracked, the golden yolk swirling into stark white milk.  Skillets warming.  Fingers caked with flour, goop meeting grit.  The soft sizzle of the oil that greets chicken to pan.

Such was the setting for last night's dinner preparations.  In each step, I could sense the presence and love of my mother-in-law.  Gone from this world two years now, I carry on the tradition of cooking her baby fried chicken for his birthday meal.

If June were here, she would have called Tim yesterday morning and invited him to a lunch he already expected to attend.  He would've eagerly counted the hours at work until the time to drive the short distance to her apartment, where the aroma of fried chicken would meet him in the parking lot.  Hearing him from the breezeway, she'd stand waiting in her small kitchen at a tiny table for two.  Her face would light up at his entrance and he'd envelop her in a giant hug, sneaking a chicken leg behind her back in one swoop.  They'd share a laugh and then a meal with all of his favorites.  The best part though, for Tim, would be her company.

I never attended a birthday lunch, it was their special time, but I can envision it in my mind from the stories he'd tell upon returning home.  Our gift was the fact that he never came back empty handed.  In a faded yellow tupperware container, her name written in cursive across the top, would be those tasty leftovers of fried deliciousness.  This container now lives in my cabinets and I smile upon the memories of the meals she sent to us each time I use it.

My hope is that Tim had a bit of flashback of happy memories with last night's dinner.  His smile, upon presenting him a plateful of crispy chicken, was worth the time spent, mess, and unavoidable grease pops that came in preparing it.  He was giddy with excitement as he bit into the crunchy, yet moist leg.  And it didn't bother me in the least that not a word was said until the very, finger licking, paper towel cleaning finish.

It was my great pleasure to bring him some comfort, a hug from his momma above, and a hefty dose of love on a plate for his birthday.  I pray it was as joy-filled for him, as his enjoyment made it for me.


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