Last evening, my extended family of origin gathered to celebrate the birthday of one of the youngest grandchildren. For the first time in a long while, we retold the old stories about our childhood. My mother and my youngest sister both laugh easily and heartily. And you should really find someone like that to be at all your parties — that characteristic makes stories funnier, dry humor more uproarious, and in general, makes everyone feel like a comedian.
And then there is my other sister, who is definitely a comedian. She’s not always “on,” but boy when she is, the jokes are flying, and the laughter is copious. I guess my role in the crowd is sometimes to be her straight [wo]man, sometimes to come up with my own comedic lines, and sometimes to laugh easily and heartily. So, when all four of us are hitting all the cylinders, it’s a fun time.
Part of our family’s oral history involves a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken. This must have been before my mother got bit by the health-food bug, which is a whole other story.
It was easy to leave the broiler on in our oven, so the next time you turned the oven on at all, the broiler would start doing its thing. On the day in question, Mom put the KFC bucket into the oven to keep it warm until dinner, turned it on low to keep the chicken nice and hot, did not check the broiler knob, and went off to do something else.
I was minding my own business, as usual, walking through the kitchen when I spied smoke seeping out of the oven. I opened the door and noticed flames. Having been taught to stay calm in case of fire, I stayed calm. I walked to the base of the stairs and called up, very calmly, “Mom? Dad? The chicken’s on fire,” just as casually as if I had been asking them if they knew where my basketball was.
Well, Dad must not have learned that thing about staying calm, because he came tearing down the steps, taking them by three, wide-eyed, Tarzan-ing himself to the ground floor by the banister. He opened the oven door, and I can only conclude that I must have calmly opened the door to the garage because he had! to! get! that! chicken! out! of! there! and he flung that chicken onto the floor, and then stomped on the bucket to put out the fire. If I recall correctly, his next move was to hiss things at mother for leaving the broiler on again.
Her response was to simply brush off the chicken pieces, and serve them up to the family as dinner. We got chicken, and by golly chicken we were going to have. And voila! “Extra crispy” chicken was born.