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As daughter readies to marry, memories of her childhood pervasive

Our 22nd wedding anniversary is coming up in July and with our daughter getting married next week, we were doing some reminiscing. We recalled the time that Laura made an anniversary dinner for us when she was 12.

I’ve been too busy this week to pound out my usual diatribe, so it was serendipity when I delved into my old emails and this column came up. Here’s the story from 2004.

Our wedding anniversary fell in the middle of the week, and after 13 years, celebrating just isn’t that big a deal. Maybe it should be, but we had gone out to dinner the weekend before and had hit a few antique stores, so we agreed to call that our celebration.

Our daughter, Laura, had other ideas. She’s 12 now and at that age where she can do a few things on her own — and when she gets an idea in her head, there’s no stopping her. She called someone who works with Penny and someone who works with me to make sure she could get us out of the house Tuesday long enough for her to set the table and make dinner.

We sort of knew what was going on, which made us a little apprehensive because we knew that A) there wasn’t anything in the house that would make a decent meal, and B) if there was, she couldn’t cook it, anyway. We should not have doubted our daughter’s resourcefulness.

It started on the weekend prior while in a little antique store in Benton. Penny saw some old, ironstone, divided plates and heaved a nostalgic sigh. She told us that when she was little, she and her dad had matching divided plates like the ones in the store, but that hers had broken while moving nearly 25 years ago.

Laura wanted to buy a pair of the plates, so I slipped her $5, and she faked needing to use the restroom so she could sneak them to the front counter. She hid them in the trunk of the car till we got home.
When I learned she intended to make dinner, I tried to talk her out of it. “There’s nothing there you can cook,” I pleaded over the phone from work.

“We have ramen noodles!” she exclaimed.

Oh, Lord! Ramen noodles for our anniversary. I don’t even like ramen noodles. That’s a desperation meal if there ever was one. Ramen noodles are what college kids survive on.

Laura called me when dinner was ready, but Penny was at a doctor’s appointment. She was running late. “But this food is already hot,” Laura said. “And the ice cream is melting.”

“Put the ice cream in the freezer,” I said. “And we’ll heat the soup in the microwave when we get home.”
Penny and I finally arrived home at the same time — an event we coordinated by cell phone. Laura met us at the door. She led us to the dining room table where she had outdone herself.

First, there was a tablecloth spread over the table, and there was a candle in the middle. The dimmer switch on the chandelier was turned low. She had made up a sign proclaiming the table “reserved for Mr. and Mrs. David Porter.” A jar of rock candy we had picked up over the weekend was also on the table.

There was a homemade card in which she had written a poem about our anniversary. The fact that she got the number of years wrong made it that much more entertaining.

She had pulled the extra chairs away from the table so it was only set for two. And at each placemat, there were the divided plates keeping our food nicely separated.

She had traded ramen noodles off in favor of chicken noodle soup, of which she had already eaten most of the can. Next to the soup, on each plate, was a dab of leftover Tuna Helper®. Julia Childs, move over. The third plate compartment held a few crackers.

There were also wine glasses filled with Laura’s own concoction. She had mixed apple juice with carbonated water and Kool-Aid®. It was perfect.

There was only one little problem.

She had bought the plates which had been in the little store for who knows how long and had been handled by who knows how many people. But she hadn’t thought to wash them first before setting the table.

We ate the food, anyway. We drank the potion. And we fell in love all over again.

Not to be outdone, our adult son called three days later to let us know that he had remembered that it was our anniversary. Life doesn’t get any better than this.


©Copyright 2004 by David Porter who can be reached at Nine years later, we still have the plates -- but we wash them now.


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