(Sorry for the missed day in posting this. Life and weak Internet do get in the way.)
“Can you tell me how to boil potatoes? I want to have boiled potatoes with our wieners but don’t know how to do potatoes.” The first home for Susan and David was a motel room that boasted a small two-burner hotpad along with a tiny kitchenette unit. Susan was learning to cook, rather on-the-job training.
“What kind of potatoes do you have? The cooking time sometimes depends on the type of potato you are cooking.” Susan was a whole 6 days older than I was so at 16, while certainly more experienced than Susan, I was not drawing upon decades of experience cooking meals.
“Good grief, I have absolutely no idea at all. They are potatoes, just potatoes.” I didn’t want to frustrate her any more so moved on.
“Okay, well, most of the time you will need to plan on a cooking time from 15-20 minutes, after the boil starts. You need to peel them, if they are not those little, thin-skinned new potatoes. Do you know about new potatoes?” Boy, how does one explain about new potatoes over the phone? Well, nevermind, she can just peel them.
“I just got these potatoes this morning.” Oops, just forget it, Sojourner, move on.
“Okay, well, forget about what kind of potatoes you have and just plan to peel them. Try to see that they are all around the same size before you put them in the pan of water. They will cook better if they are close to the same size so you might need to cut them. In fact, if they are not small potatoes, you might want to cut them in half anyway to keep your cooking time around 20 minutes. If they are different sizes, some will not be cooked and others will be mush.” For the next forty-five or so minutes I went through the process of preparing boiled potatoes, answering all of her questions as best I could.
I repeated each step of the instructions a few times so Susan could write it all down in her notebook but, finally, it sounded like she had everything she needed. I resolved to take her to the grocery store as soon as I could to explain what I knew about various cuts of meat, potatoes and other veggies. How I mentally thanked my mother for teaching me these things at an early age.
We did not have cell phones in those days so it was not every day that I helped Susan with her dinner prep. Whenever I went home for lunch, though, I called her to be sure she didn’t have any questions on what she wanted to cook for supper that evening. Often she phoned me to tell me how it went before I left for school that next morning so I would be able to tell her then if I couldn’t call her at noon.
Susan and David moved to a mobile home next to David’s parents before the baby arrived. I was glad for Susan as David’s mother was really a nice lady and proved a big help for Susan’s continued cooking lessons, as well as help learning about baby care. I found it hard to just take the time to go visit Susan when she moved to the other side of town. Sometimes my days were so full that I even forgot about her; something that made me feel just terrible whenever I did remember and saw that an entire week had passed without so much as a phone call to Susan. I think I visited her about once a month until the baby was born.
Baby Evan was so cute and lots of fun to hold. I loved playing with him and Susan loved to talk about the things he was learning to do. She sounded a lot like the other mothers in the doctor’s waiting room. I think it was this connection that woke me up to a seriously sad revelation: Susan’s childhood was over while mine was still in full adolescent swing. Boy, she was missing so much and I was missing having her to share the events of those last two years in high school… not to mention the excitement of that first year away at university.
While I packed my dad’s car for my parents to drive me the 386 miles to school, Susan was busily keeping track of her two little boys. Billy had come along before Evan was potty-trained so her hands were pretty full most of every day. It was not long before Susan and David divorced and Susan had charge of the two small boys alone. The last time I heard anything about my beloved friend, Susan, she was on husband number three and had six children. She was working as a hair dresser and life was pretty tough for her all things considered. Our lives, certainly, went in different directions.
*All names have been changed.
****Teen Stresses: Marriage, Biblical Reflections… Coming Monday.