TITLE: A Searing Memory
By Jim Oates
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Momma made porridge for breakfast; we always had porridge for breakfast through the cold winter months except on Sundays. On Sunday morning’s Daddy had breakfast with us and we all sat around the kitchen table and Momma set bacon, eggs and toast before us. Sunday breakfast was special not only for the bacon and eggs but Daddy kept us enthralled with his war stories.
Momma always said, "porridge is a stick-to-the-ribs breakfast; it will keep you warm all day." She said that about her soup as well.
I had seen her do it hundreds of times; she would lift the top part of the double boiler off and carry it to the dish towel located about four feet above the floor between the stove and the sink. Without taking the towel from the rack she would wipe the wet steam droplets from the bottom of the pot before bringing it to the table to dish the steaming globs of porridge into our bowls. “That will stick to your ribs,” she would say as she dished it out; she always said that. I’m sure she was right; I was always warm as I, along with the neighbour kids trudged the two miles to school some times in near blizzard conditions.
One morning Momma was busy with something and I was alone in the kitchen, being a very mature seven year old; I decided I could get my own breakfast. I lifted lid and watched the steam rise and then lifted the top part of the double boiler off and a cloud of steam rose from the lower pot. I carried the pot to the dishtowel to wipe the wet bottom as I had seen Momma do hundreds of times. The towel rack was much higher than I thought. Reaching up to wipe the bottom of the pot, the scalding contents poured over the edge and onto my hands.
Momma came running when she heard the screams coming from the kitchen, on seeing the pot on the floor with its spilled contents and my hands covered with the hot sticky substance, she quickly sized up the situation and plunged my hands into some cold water she had on the counter. She then put some tea in a pan of water and brought it to the boil extracting the tannic acid from the tea leaves. When this cooled she applied cloths soaked in the tea to my scalded hands then she wrapped them in strips cloth that she ripped from an old bed sheet that was kept for bandages and other uses.
I didn’t go to school for a couple days; when the pain finally subsided I was able to join my school mates on the walk to school. I was grilled intensely as we walked through the snow. I was the center of attention as I showed off my boxer glove-like wrappings. Nobody had ever heard of anyone being burned by porridge before, so I had to repeat my experience many times on the road and at school. Since I couldn’t wear gloves, Momma pulled a pair of woolen stockings over my bandaged hands.
I still have porridge for breakfast at lest three times a week. It’s a family tradition and I still do it the same way Momma did it.
You know! It has been seventy years since that memorable experience seared into my mind as well as my hands. The memory of that event flashes back every time I wipe the bottom of the pot with the dish towel that hangs on the oven door handle.
Some memories last a life time.
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