Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Famous (or Infamous) Meatball Story by Lisa Dempsey Callaghan

I grew up in a house where we had to finish everything on our plates, (you know, because there are kids starving in China) and if we didn't, we had to sit there until we did (then we fed it to the dog once my parents retired to the living room). 
One night we were having spaghetti and meatballs and my brother didn't finish his plate. My parents went inside WITH the dog, since they had gotten wise to that trick, instructing us to make sure he ate the rest of his dinner. We drank the rest of the soda from our 2 litre plastic bottle of Pepsi. My brother was whining that he didn't want the stupid meatball so he turned the bottle over and mushed the meatball into the opening and down the neck of the bottle. Then he turned it back over and slammed both sides of it between his hands...the meatball went flying up and hit the ceiling...SPLAT!!! WE laughed our asses was the funniest thing we'd ever seen!! My other brother wanted to try, and I joined in as well. We all kept taking turns, trying to make a bigger splat, adding spaghetti and more sauce in the mix with the meatballs, and as it all fell back down on us the table (AND the counter, AND the floor) was getting more and more disgusting.

My mother hears all the commotion and is annoyed that we are not sufficiently subdued while we are finishing our dinner, and comes in...She sees that the whole table is covered with sauce and spaghetti and opens her mouth to reprimand us. All of a sudden a big piece of meatball just falls down from the ceiling and hits her arm. She looks up and the ceiling is COVERED with red splatters, sauce everywhere, there's meatball pieces on the ceiling, still falling back on the table as she stood there, spaghetti hanging everywhere....She just stood there for a minute in stunned disbelief, while we still giggled like idiots....THEN the screaming started!!!

It never occured to us that the ceiling couldn't simply be wiped down like the table or countertop...we didn't even KNOW that the ceiling was made of stucco (a textured, pointy plaster and sand rough finish, instead of a flat, smooth finish) which made it easier for the meatballs and spaghetti to STICK to it, but also made it close to impossible to clean. There was no washable paint back then, so even when she scrubbed it real good it was completely stained...and the whole ceiling had to be repainted. We had a family room that attached to the kitchen with no molding on the ceiling, and you couldn't just paint the kitchen part because you'd see the demarcation where the paint stopped, so it was a much bigger job than it looked.

When we were finally allowed out of our rooms (and could comfortably walk again...LOL) were we willing to joke about it (to each other ONLY, we were not stupid enough to do it in front of our parents) we used to sing "On top of Spaghetti, all covered with cheese, I lost my poor meatball, when somebody SQUEEZED" which then became "On top of spaghetti, all covered with sauce, I lost my poor meatball (WHERE?) on the CEILING of course..."

Years later we used to joke that Mom's kitchen was our favorite Italian restaurant, "The only place where the food and the decor were made of the same good stuff."

Since my one brother has been estranged from the rest of the family on and off (mostly off) for many years, this is the one story we still talk about when he is ON with the family. My husband and my kids are known to groan "oh NOOOOOO, not the MEATBALL story again....." but we still giggle...Luckily, it got to the point finally that my mother could laugh as well, realizing how much fun it must've seemed to us, how dumbfounded she must've looked standing there while spaghetti fell on her...her description of it and her delivery was just so funny...

So whenever I think of the color RED, I don't see hearts and love and Valentines Day, I don't see Santa suits and red stockings to hang by the chimney, nor do I see Stop signs or traffic lights. I see that splattered ceiling and wonder how she didn't kill us. And I imagine how many bottles of wine were consumed by my parents just to get us to age 18......So today I think.... 

"A bottle of white, a bottle of RED, perhaps a bottle of rose instead...I'll meet you anytime you want in our Italian Restaurant

1 comment: