Mom immunized us against Salmonella

My children were recently ambushed by Hepatitis A immunizations at their annual wellness visit. According to my calculations, they were through with all required shots. In fact, on the way to their check-ups, I had reassured there would be no shots. Then along came Nurse Joanie with a needle to make me a liar.

I told them it wouldn’t be the last time.

“Why do I have to get a shot?” Connor protested, trying to deflect the injection into his thigh.

“You need the shot in order to keep eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches,” I lied. Being a good and crafty mother, I managed to link the shot with Connor’s refusal to eat lunchmeat and the peanut-related killer Salmonella outbreak that’s been in the news.

You’re not a true parent (or attorney) until you have mastered the art of circumstantial explanation, stringing together unrelated events in a way they appear to be plausibly connected in order to build your case.

Someday, when Connor becomes an epidemiologist, he will ponder just what the heck I was thinking. And Kate will have yet another story to enliven her “Adult Children of Parents Who Lied Too Much” support group. But at that moment, I just needed to get past the shots.

Part of me wondered if any offspring of my parents could possibly need protection against food-borne illness. My childhood memories involve regularly drinking raw milk, periodically butchering at home, frequently watching Dad regularly cut mold off a 20-pound block of Colby cheese, and religiously following the five-second rule like it was an 11th commandment.

My kids’ dad once spotted a meat-covered pizza forgotten for God only knows how long on the roof of a car in the parking lot of his apartment complex. When no one came back to claim it, he ate it and is still alive.

In January I received a letter from Sam’s Club, stating the tray of assorted baklava I had purchased back in November had been recalled due to potential Salmonella contamination. I was to segregate and return it.

Like there’s any left to return! I enjoyed a few pieces per day until it was gone. Enough to kill a horse, or at least poison it. And I’m sitting here feeling fine, typing this.

Really, I was far more creeped out by Big Brother Sam’s Club keeping tabs on my purchases than I was by the threat of Salmonella. Obviously, a lifetime of spoiled food eating has paid off. But most of the credit should go to my mom, the patron saint of expired goods.

When Mom had her kitchen remodeled during the fall of 2002, she emptied cupboards and drawers, “gifting” her daughters with a dubious assortment of items in various age ranges. There were a large number of giveaways, as Mom still shops like she’s stocking the shelves at Donovan’s Market.

The week of Thanksgiving, Mom delivered me 24 assorted boxes of Jell-O and pudding, probably more than I’ve used my entire life. My three sisters received equal amounts because Mom is fair, albeit hoarder extraordinaire.

Early Thanksgiving morning, my stepson needed some vanilla instant pudding to make pumpkin mousse pie. The only vanilla pudding to be had was a package my mother had given us.

“I don’t know,” he said, frowning. “It looks kind of old.”

Kind of?!

I picked up the package with its 17-cent price tag from a grocery store that had gone out of business several years ago. The back of the box sported an offer where you could send in five box tops along with a dollar – for an avocado green bundt pan. And I read aloud, “Hurry, offer expires September 30, 1979.” OMIGOD!

I told my stepson to go ahead and use it. With the stores all closed that day, we lacked choices.

“We’ll serve my mom the first piece and see if anything happens,” I said. Predictably, nothing did.

We’re not looking forward to the day when my mother actually dies and we have to empty her larder. There will be heavy hearts and heavy lifting. But it comforts to know there are at least 47 boxes of Kleenex with which to dry our tears. 


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