It was Christmas Eve, and the house buzzed with activity. Women chattered in the kitchen as they washed dinner dishes, while men patted their bellies. I think they were trying to tamp down the massive dinner they inhaled and make room for dessert.
I eyed everyone curiously. Our pastor, his wife, their two children, my parents, brothers and sister, and my grandparents sat frozen in our seats, dessert in one hand and fork in the other. No one dared take their dish to the kitchen; Aunt Mae was there still cutting pie, her “prize winning” Blueberry pie.
Eyes darted from kitchen to bathroom to back door. It seemed everyone had the same idea. How could they dispense of their piece without Aunt Mae knowing?
Mom and Dad spoke just above a whisper to Pastor Mike, “I don’t understand, usually Aunt Mae is such a good cook.” They were embarrassed for her. She was, after all, an author of numerous cookbooks. It seemed only natural that Mom and Dad would ask her to do the baking this year for the holidays. Our house was to be her headquarters; it came equipped with the largest kitchen in the family.
She woke early this morning, gathered all the supplies needed. Whatever she did not have, found its way to a list readied for a shopping trip.
With the ingredients pulled together, Aunt Mae lined them up; organized them according to order of use, then began to dispense proper measurements into separate dishes.
The morning wore on. There was no one permitted in under any circumstances. Mom made sure cereal, milk, bread for toast, and juice was available in the basement kitchen.
Timmy, my little brother, agonized over the ban. At six, who can blame him? He stationed himself by the kitchen door, hoping there would be a change in Aunt Mae’s law. As long as he stayed by the door, she did not seem to mind him watching.
“Goodness!” She exclaimed. “I do believe I’ve had enough coffee to fill a river.”
At last, an opportunity presented itself. She disappeared through the door opposite Timmy’s station.
“YES!” Timmy took his chance. He tiptoed in, perched himself on a stool and poked his nose into every jar and bag on the counter, inspecting the contents. When he opened the sugar canister, he noticed it nearly empty.
He climbed up onto the counter and looked around, found a bag of s-s-s-s-s-s… well, it must be sugar, it’s white and Mommy says sugar begins with s. He opened the spout on the bag and poured it in; he emptied its entire contents into the sugar canister.
Just as he finished, he heard footsteps. Aunt Mae was coming back. Jumping down from the counter, he snuck back to his station at the door. He clutched tightly to the just emptied bag, he forgot it was still in his hands.
“You’re still there, huh?” Aunt Mae was not surprised; she muttered something about kids and dogs underfoot, and returned to work. She was surprised, though, when she reached for the new bag of sugar and opened the canister to fill it.
“Oh dear, I must be tired or losing my mind. I thought this was almost empty.” She shook her head, and began rolling out pie dough.
Timmy was the last to receive a piece before Aunt Mae came in with her own in one hand and a cup of coffee in another. She sat in her seat at the end of the table, shifted around, like a cat trying to find that perfect position, then lifted her cup for a sip. Her eyes fell on our nearly untouched plates.
“How sweet, you didn’t have to wait for me to eat.” She smiled at the apparent thoughtfulness of her family and friends.
“We didn’t,” announced Timmy.
“What do you mean, Timmy?” Aunt Mae asked.
Before anyone could stop him, Timmy blurted, “We don’t like it!”
“What do you mean?” She asked, trying not to look hurt.
“Taste it, Aunt Mae, I think you’ll understand.” Mom spoke up.
Aunt Mae scooped some on her fork and raised it to her mouth. Almost instantly, she spat it back onto the plate, “SALT!”
She thought for a moment, “I don’t use salt, how did it – get – in …” She paused, glanced at Timmy remembering something.
“Timmy, did you help me today?”
“Y-yes ma’am,” he could not lie, “I filled the sugar for you.”
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