Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Our Exclusive Club

                 I roll out of bed. I stumble into the kitchen. The forecast predicts another warm July day, and as a ten year old girl living in the country miles from any kids my age, other than my sister, I expect this day will be as dull as the rest of the summer days.
                The morning sun shines through the window, and I’m surprised to see Dad at the kitchen table, still eating his breakfast. The smell of his oatmeal mixes with the aroma of his toast, done too dark for me. My sister Pat is at the other end of the table. From the sound of her metal spoon against the sides of the Corelle Ware bowl, I guess that she is almost done eating her Lucky Charms.  
                From behind Dad’s back, I point to him, the unasked question on my face. Why isn’t Dad at work? Pat, two and a half years my senior, just grins in reply, her mouth full. A trace of milk dribbles down her chin.
                Dad’s attire gives no clue. Every day since I could remember, no matter what was on the schedule, he was dressed in Dickies work shirt and pants, color Lincoln green. The only other thing in his closet was the black suit he wore to church on Sunday.
I rarely saw him in the mornings as he was gone to work at the paper mill in town before I crawled out of bed, whether I had to get ready for school or not. Once a year he took a week off so we could go on a family vacation. Any other leave he spent working around the house.         
                “Your dad took the day off,” Mom announces as she streams through the kitchen. “But I have to go to work, so the three of you better behave while I’m gone.”
                Before the car is out of the driveway, my sister and I stand on either side of Dad’s chair.
                “Does this mean what we think it means?” Pat finally asks.
                “Yep,” Dad answers, running a hand through his greying hair. He never was one to use many words. “So go get dressed.”
                Within minutes, Pat and I are back in the kitchen, in our t-shirts and shorts. I’ve even forgotten about my breakfast. We hear Dad struggling up the basement stairs with the ten-gallon crock, but are too excited to come to his aid.
                We make a mess of the kitchen that day, as we do for one day every summer throughout my childhood. Sugar is spilled on the floor. Root beer extract stains the counter top. We clean up as best we can as we go along. We don’t want to incur Mom’s wrath.
                With the metal antique bottle capper, a crazy contraption two feet high, Dad forces the caps onto the soda pop bottles, locking the metal caps into place. Over the years, Dad learned to move the production outside at this point. One or two of the glass bottles always break during the process.
                Over the next few weeks, as the filled bottles lay on their sides on an old quilt under our beds, several more bottles will explode from the pressure as the soda begins to effervesce. In the same manner, Mom will explode. Dad will just shrug, because he knows, as my sister and I know, that in the end it will be worth it for a bottle of homemade Root Beer. 
This is Dad in 1977 while we were on our vacation to the Grand Canyon. I'm still trying to find pictures of him in his Lincoln green Dickies. I wrote this piece while at the Green Lake Christian Writers Conference last week. I have wanted to write this story for a long time and I'm glad I had the chance to have it critiqued by an expert. 


Denise said...

Thank you for sharing you story. Dave tells the same about the root beer exploding that they made. Makes want a root beer float, good thing it is 9:45 & bedtime.

Chris Loehmer Kincaid said...

I looked up on the internet how to make root beer. All they had was making one bottle at a time, not the ten gallons we made. They also recommended plastic bottles instead of glass so they would't blow up. They didn't make plastic bottles in the 60's, did they? Sometimes our brew ended up more beer than root. Oh, yeah, probably coz we live in Wisconsin.