TONY J BENDER: That’s Life — Cheese Buttons For Christmas

OK, so The Triumvirate (Mom and my sisters) decreed that we’d have German food for Christmas. My three brothers and I are not consulted on decisions of such import, even though we constitute a majority, but we don’t have to cook, either. It may be a simple matter of public safety.

It’s a relatively benevolent dictatorship — Mom and her henchwomen — and truth be told, if they didn’t plan family gatherings, we’d never see each other again. So we get our instructions to be somewhere at a certain time and place and to bring something. “And don’t forget like you did (insert time and date of the offense).” God doesn’t need a list of my sins. Mom has all the documentation. Notarized, even.

For Thanksgiving I was ordered to bring dinner rolls and wine, “and none of the cheap, rot gut stuff, either.” As you’ve gathered by now, Mom can be passive-aggressive. But mostly aggressive-aggressive.

I dropped a hint to my sister Sherry that I’d favor cheese buttons, figuring she has more pull than I do. The subterfuge worked. Sorta. It turned out I’d have to work for my supper after all.

Mom called a couple of days later. She’d looked at the big grocery stores in Aberdeen, S.D., for dry curd cottage cheese but couldn’t find any. If you’re some kind of tragically-uninformed apostate, cheese buttons are made of pan-fried folded dough with seasoned dry curd cottage cheese and onions inside. It’s what German-Russian vegetarians eat.

After coming up empty-handed in the dairy aisle, Mom stopped by Carlsen Funeral Home to drop off some urns from her ceramics shop and told Mike Carlsen about the dry curd cottage cheese crisis. Then, when she got home, she called and asked me to check at Ashley Super Valu, and sure enough, Kirk Rueb had plenty in stock because it’s still America in Ashley, N.D.

But how to get the contraband to Frederick, S.D.? Mom had a plan. She knew Mike would be in Ashley to handle a funeral, so I sent the following e-mail to him:

“Hey Mike, my mom is wondering if you’d pick up the almost-impossible-to-find dry curd cottage cheese I purchased at Ashley Super Valu and drop it off for her tomorrow? Here’s the deal. She’s making German food (cheese buttons) for Christmas (my request), so the fate of Christmas dinner, and possibly all of mankind, rests squarely on your able shoulders. But no pressure. Can you do this? Your pal, Tony”

The funeral was scheduled for Thursday, but it happened that Mike was in town Wednesday night for the viewing, so I dropped off six containers of dry curd cottage cheese at the funeral home as Mike was about to lock up. An hour and 60 miles later, he delivered the contraband to my Mom’s front porch on his way back to Aberdeen. No one was home and the place was dark. Mom was out gambling. Dominoes. I had tried unsuccessfully to warn her of the early delivery. And the point of having your cell phone off is, Mom? (My mother will talk to you when she’s dang good and ready.)

I should have told Mike he might find a plate of goodies waiting for him — because I know my mom — but not knowing for sure, especially since the delivery was a day early, I said nothing. Sure enough, she’d been prepared. There was a plate of homemade fudge, bars and cookies chilling in the porch with his name on it, but in the dim light, he missed it. He picked it up the next day on the way back from the funeral.

We hope we haven’t induced Mike to break the Undertaker’s Code of Ethics or interstate commerce laws by smuggling dry curd cottage cheese across state lines. But that’s how we roll around here, mister.

In case Mike is arrested, I have been practicing my speech as a character witness for the sentencing:

“In the name of all that is holy, Your Honor, this was a humanitarian crisis!”

And should I be implicated, I have an excuse: “Mom made me do it!”

Meanwhile, the neighbors are wondering why a hearse keeps stopping at the house.

© Tony Bender, 2019

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