My father barbecued on summer holidays, standing over the stone fireplace in the backyard. Some years, I know, we had a round grill, a Weber maybe, or whatever they sold at Sears where my father preferred to shop. He made hot dogs and hamburgers, which we kids piled on plates with buns, potato chips and whatever semi-healthy side my mother provided.
I didn’t like eating outside as a child. Nothing about being jammed with eight kids at a picnic table for six spelled “fun” to me. I didn’t care for hot weather, despised flies, and had no proclivity for balancing a weak paper plate on a knee while clutching a plastic glass filled with a sugary drink.
I’d take my food inside, where even without air conditioning, I felt more comfortable. I would sit at the breakfast room table alone, a book propped in front of me, munching the burnt skin of a hot dog with perfect contentment. We might have corn-on-the-cob; if so, I’d smooth a bit of margarine on an ear and delicately nibble its rows, free from my brothers’ jeers and ridicule at the daintiness of my eating.
With everyone else outside, jostling for space at the table or in the folding chairs, the house seemed still and serene. I could finish several chapters without interruption, while the four boys and whatever older sisters still resided at home argued over the last ear of corn. I spoke to no one; I sang, maybe, just a bit, off-key. After a while, I’d hear the wrenching open of the downstairs door, and the thunder of brothers on the basement stairs. Softer steps followed; my mother, carrying dishes. I’d hear my father’s gruff voice admonishing the boys to help their mother.
My interlude would end, but the peaceful feeling remained, and carried me into the starlit night, to the porch, to the front yard, where fireflies twinkled and the wind danced in our hair.