Monday, November 19, 2012

Of Moms and Men: the Bear Facts

We had Winkel here today.  Here, as in at Oak Park.  Winkel, as in the monthly meeting of the circuit pastors and guests, for further education, and mutual support and encouragement.  Many times the wives and kids come, too.  But today was just me and my girls.  There was a time when most of the pastors' kids were homeschooled, so we used to have a pretty big gathering each month.  These days the circuit has evolved as some pastors have moved on, and others have moved in.  The kids who are still here are older.  Some, like mine, are in public school full time, others are in a handful of activities through the public school system in their community.  It's a bit unpredictable each month, which wives will make it, and whether or not they will have kids along. 

The Winkel day opens with a worship service, and then a quick Minnesota Lunch.  I have to call it that, because people in most of the US mean something quite different with the word, lunch.  In Minnesota, lunch is a snack.  A between meals snack.  But it's never just a quick snack.  It always involves coffee and if kids are present, milk.  Usually bars or sweet rolls, banana bread or pumpkin muffins; sandwiches or pickles, or a little of this and a little of that.  Salad, pie, bread and butter, pickled fish, nuts and candy.  Could be anything.  It's most always called a little lunch, as in "Let me get you a little lunch," as your hostess opens the fridge and starts to pull things out. 

For more Minnesota-isms you could read, How to Talk Minnesotan, by Howard Mohr.  But probably you wouldn't get it, unless you live here or have listened to years of Garrison Keillor.  Many years ago, at a Mother/Daughter luncheon at Joe's parent's church, Howard Mohr was the guest speaker.  Most people enjoyed it immensely.  I was a bit lost, since I had not lived in Minnesota long enough, nor even been affiliated for enough years with Minnesotans to appreciate the cultural humor.  I'd probably enjoy it now.  It's hard to believeI've lived in Minnesota for almost 20 years.  And sometimes I still feel like a foreigner! 

But on to Winkel.  The day starts with a worship service and the forenoon lunch.  Then the men meet and the ladies meander up to the parsonage to have their own little visit.  Then we have dinner (the noon meal) sometimes at the hosting church or parsonage, other times at a nearby restaurant.  The men then continue their meetings into the afternoon, and the women return to the parsonage.

Here at Oak Park, since we are quite a distance from any eateries, and the men don't want to spend most of their lunch hour driving, we generally eat at church.  Sometimes the Ladies Aid provides the food, other times I do it myself.  Really, for me, it's not too big a job, simply because of the volume at which I generally cook for my family.  Today, Muriel M. provided the treats for lunch and a dessert for dinner.  I made a Tex-Mex hotdish for dinner, and served it with lettuce, Mexican flavored rice, and taco toppings.  I thought that made an adequate lunch.  Oops.  I mean dinner.

But nope.  I found out that it was, in fact, not enough.  It was missing the most important menu item. Joe had to show off his manly prowess and serve some bear chops along with the Tex-Mex meal.  "Fine, Joe," theMom replied with the barest hint of an eyeroll.  "It's a novelty thing.  I'm sure the guys will get a kick out of it.  As long as your prepare them, though, please.  I'm going to be plenty busy with the other items."

Everything went fine.  Really.  The dinner was wonderful.  The bear was well received and made for good conversation.  I think even Pastor Longshore may have had a nibble.  (I told him afterwards that the meat in the Tex-Mex hot dish was venison, too, so he really had some culinary adventures today.)  Pastor Longshore is the newest pastor in our circuit.  He's from the South, and bigger towns.  Cities, really.  So he's still experiencing a bit of that culture shock that can awe someone new to the area.)

After we finished eating, I closed the window curtain divider thing for the kitchen, and pulled shut the doors, to enable the men to have their privacy while they continued their meeting.  And I washed the dishes.  Am I a good pastor's wife, or what? 

As I was cleaning up, I noticed that there was a big black smear on the white and shiny, usually pristine, surface of one of the flat topped stoves.  "Shoot, did I do that?  I didn't even use the stove.  What might I have set there?  I'm very sure The Ladies would not have left it like that, so it must have been us somehow."  These and other panic stricken thoughts ran through my head as I washed the rest of the dishes.  I was a bit fearful, wondering what it might have been and how easily (or not) it would come off.  I know the standards The Ladies expect to be followed in the hallowed domain of the Church Kitchen.

As I got to the last few items of dirty dishes, it dawned on me.  The bear.  Joe used one of our cast iron pans on the stove.  Yes.  One of the well-seasoned cast iron pans that sometimes leave black greasy smear marks on surfaces.  And there is was.  The blaring black grease smear.  Baked onto the Ladies' Aid's stove.  Yes, it is the church's stove.  But only in name.  We all know it really belongs to The Ladies. 

(When you read this, you have to think in a somewhat somber and frightening kind of voice every time you read the words The Ladies.  It's not meant in any unkind way.  And it's not any one or couple of individual ladies.  It's simply the collective power of The Ladies to strike fear into the hearts of those unsuspecting individuals who tread wrongly.)

Terror was striking my heart during those minutes.  I know how hard those smears can be to remove from a solid surface stove.  Much to the chagrin of The Church Ladies, I don't really scrub off the parsonage one all the time anymore.  Dare I say it?  Stains don't bother me.  As long as the crumbs and chunks are scrubbed off.  as long as the surface grease is wiped up.  But I know it bothers The Ladies.

I knew that smear on the church stove simply had to come off.

I must admit that about this time, I did lose my battle against a few more eyerolls, directed at the whole bear thing.  Such a Man thing, right?  I mean, it's OK for us women to show off our quilts or crochet, or to even to leave our filled canning jars sitting on the counter for others to notice.  But it is pretty ridiculous for a man to want to show off his accomplishments, right? 

"Such a guy thing!" Eyeroll.  Right?  Isn't that how we are?  Well, maybe not you, but I am. 

Oh, and the did come off with a little elbow grease and a dab of CeramaBryte.

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