46: The Five-Second Rule

46: The Five-Second Rule

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Amazing Mom

The Five-Second Rule

Be master of your petty annoyances and conserve your energies for the big, worthwhile things.

~Robert Service

My mom was many things in her life—a daughter, sister, wife, mom, grandmother, teacher, psychologist, university professor, author, and lecturer. But she was not a baker. She was a great cook, and she enjoyed cooking, but she did not bake. Ever! The running joke in our family was that I was a deprived child from a deprived home because my mother did not bake cookies for me. Never. My father tried baking . . . once. Once was enough. We always had cakes, cookies and sweets in our house, but either my grandmothers baked them or they were store-bought.

In her role as a university professor, my mom had to entertain other professors and people from the university a few times a year. She would plan these parties carefully, making sure to take care of every detail pertaining to the appetizers, salad and main course. But she bought the dessert from the neighborhood bakery.

My husband and I remember these parties very well. For many years, my mom asked us to help her host. We mingled and sat at the table and ate with the guests, but we also helped her serve and clean up. The parties always ran smoothly because of the time and attention to detail that my mom put into them.

Except one time . . . It started out just like all the other parties. In the afternoon, Mom got things ready. She set the table, got out the dishes, prepped the food, and figured out when she had to put in the roast to have it ready to serve at 8:00 p.m. She seasoned it perfectly and popped it in the preheated oven at exactly the right time.

The guests arrived. We had drinks and appetizers. All went well. We sat down at the table to enjoy the salad and rolls. Mom was sitting at one end of the table, and my dad was at the other end. My husband and I were somewhere in the middle. Sitting to the right of Mom, in a place of honor, was one of the most respected professors in the psychology department at the university . . . a well-known name in his field around the world.

This man immediately tucked his napkin into his collar rather than putting it in his lap. It was a good thing too, because he was stuffing food into his mouth and dropping it all over the place, including on himself and on Mom. Mom just sat there smiling and nodding at whatever he was saying and never lost her composure. Not even once. Very subtly, she picked lettuce and cucumbers off her sleeve and the table. Not once did she look like she was shocked. On the other hand, I sat there staring.

The professor was very intent when speaking to my mom. In the middle of spraying his food on her, he grabbed her hand and held it as if to really make his point. There wasn’t anything romantic about it; he was just so wrapped up in what he was saying that he wanted to emphasize his words. The only problem was my mom was right-handed. The professor was holding her right hand. She couldn’t eat. So she did the only thing she could do in this situation—she started eating her salad with her left hand!

Finally, the salad was finished, and it was time for the main course to be served. Mom and I excused ourselves from the table, went into the kitchen and closed the door. Mom whipped the potatoes, and I stirred the vegetables. Both were steaming hot and put into serving dishes, just waiting to be carried out to the dining room. Mom was ready to take the roast out of the oven. She opened the oven door carefully, got the potholders ready and pulled the oven rack out a little. That roast looked so perfect. Cooked to perfection. And it smelled delicious. Mom carefully lifted the roaster out of the oven and turned toward the kitchen counter where the cutting board was. We could never figure out what happened next. It was like the world started turning in slow motion as the roaster tipped ever so slightly, and the beautiful roast fell right on the floor. Plop!

I gasped, but Mom didn’t blink. Just as she had before, when she was having food sprayed on her while having her hand held, she reacted with poise and grace. She quickly picked up the roast from the floor, brushed it off and put it on the cutting board. She sliced it and artfully spread the slices on the serving platter, spooning a little of the au jus over the meat. She even sprinkled parsley on it for garnish!

Then she looked at me. I looked at her. We shrugged, smiled, opened the door to the dining room, carried in the food, and served dinner to the guests. People raved, as they always did, about Mom’s cooking. Mom and I ate the roast along with everyone else as if nothing had happened and never said a word. It was delicious!

At that dinner, Mom taught me something I will never forget—the importance of the five-second rule. It sure came in handy later when I had three sons!

~Barbara LoMonaco

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