by Debbie Butler Tate–
One day in elementary school, I was reprimanded for something that happened on the playground. I was not guilty, but I was blamed for it. I did not want to “tattletale” so I had to sit on the curb while the others played.
It hurt my feelings, and when I got into the station wagon that afternoon, I burst out crying. After explaining to Mother, she tried to reassure me, as mothers do. She said, “Don’t worry about it. Just keep sitting on that curb and something good will happen to you some day.” I kind of understood what she meant. Although, in my 9-year- old mind, I was looking for a little more sympathy for sure. I guessed it had to do with that “turning the other cheek” thing.
Fast forward 3 years. I was 12 and in the seventh grade. I was invited to go with some other girls (who usually did not invite me to be in their “group,” a group I desperately wanted to be a part of) to a basketball game. I was told that the mother of one of the girls would pick me up at 6:30 that night. Although a very trivial thing, the invitation was huge to me, and Mother knew it. I remember her helping me pick out something to wear, ironing my oxford shirt that afternoon, and helping me with my hair.
At 5 p.m., I was ready – wearing navy knee socks, a gray wool skirt, a light blue shirt, loafers, and a navy headband. I had money in my hand to get into the game. Mother had a big pot of chili on the stove, and I could hear Terry and Craig playing downstairs. I was too excited to eat. I waited upstairs, looking out of the window in their bedroom. Six o’clock came, then 6:30, and then 7:00. Then the phone rang, and I immediately picked it up. It was one of the girls telling me that they “did not have room in the car for me to go.” I could hear others snickering in the background. I hung up, feeling so humiliated and embarrassed. I did not want to face my Mother, but I heard her climbing the stairs.
I rubbed the tears away, but when she looked at me, she immediately knew. She could have gotten angry like some mothers these days, made a big deal out of the incident, called the other mothers, etc. Instead, she just said, “Run and change your clothes and come down to eat. We will make us some popcorn later, and you all can stay up late and watch TV.”
“I have to sit on the curb, right?” I asked.
She smiled and said “Yep.”
Through the years, this line became a standing joke between Mother, Terry, and I, whenever something bad or seemingly unfair happened. Even now, as old as I am, I still find myself sitting on that curb some days. I don’t mind. My mother is and always has been sitting right there with me, and it is a warm and sunny spot.
This recipe is a great Chili recipe that originally came from Mrs. J. Kelley (JoAnn) Avery. It was printed in the old, blue Central Elementary Recipe Book and has always been our favorite!
3 Tablespoons oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
3 lbs. extra lean ground beef
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
4 Tablespoons chili powder
2 no. two cans tomatoes
2 cups tomato sauce
1 Tablespoons paprika
3 teaspoons salt
4 cloves garlic
2 bay leaves
2 cans kidney beans
Put oil in a large iron skillet or Dutch oven and add the onion, green pepper and celery. Cook until soft. Next, add the meat and cook until browned and crumbled. Add all other ingredients except for kidney beans. Cover and simmer for several hours, stirring occasionally. Add the 2 cans of drained kidney beans and simmer another hour. This serves 8 to 10 and freezes well.
Editor’s Note: “The Curb” is a sample of the family memoir/recipe installments Debbie Butler Tate is writing and collecting for a book honoring her mother, the late Mary Nell Butler. Tate’s bio and another entertaining sample can be read in the April/May 2017 issue of Hometown magazine (www.hometownkentenn.com.)