Here Is Your Assignment, No Option to Refuse

Paul Richardson

My eccentric daughter likes to recall our use of slave labor when they were growing up. I like to refer to it as efficient use of available resources. It is not that she is above this practice and she will use it at every opportunity, it is just that she knows that reference continually informs me of her opposition to being the labor source. I would like to commend her, as she was a good worker. A little bit of a labor movement organizer, but a good worker.

It was a matter of record that the goodwife and I assigned task to our offspring as they developed. My parents did the same as was the practice of almost every family I knew. Some task was repetitive and mundane. My younger sister maintains to this day that I was always in the restroom when it came time to do the dishes. I believe that the complainer was probably the perpetrator. Other task, however, when assigned were like being inducted into a secret society.

I am a big person. Most of my adult life I measured out at a value north of 6’ 4”, however, the last few years have seen me begin to settle like a mound of sand being washed by the tide. On top of that I fleshed out about fifteen years ago. Not all at once, but it was a gradual climb. If you look back at pictures of me holding our first grandchild twenty-four years ago, I was quite swelt. My hair was darker, also. None the less, I didn’t get this way on my own but would not necessarily have needed help in doing so. My dear mother and the goodwife are quite the accomplished cooks. Preparing food is more than a task, but a source of enjoyment and a hobby.

While they were contributors, I, in my own right, can prepare a variety and quite delectable meals. It all began in Maysville, Arkansas when I was in the fifth grade. My dear mother and dad were sitting on the porch swing, when the ceiling mount on my dear mother’s side of the swing gave way. Her position had her legs pulled back under the swing, so when it came down, landing on her legs, one of them was broken.

Coming home from school that day, we found her bedfast. I found this as an opportunity to request induction into that secret society occupied by those who cook. When asking my mother if I could take over the cooking while she was bedridden, she asked, “Do you know how to cook?” I replied, “I know how to read, and we have cook books.” Once the menu was determined, I was instructed to cut up the potatoes. Instead of just quartering the potatoes into chunks, I diced them. This proved to be a problem when I began to mash the potatoes with the manual masher as the use of an electric mixer to whip the potatoes was unheard of in my world. These diced potatoes yielded the lumpiest mashed potatoes I have ever eaten!

That day I was inducted into a community that would contribute to my entire future. In my head the initiation speech read, “Here is your assignment, should you decide to accept, you will learn the secret handshake and be given access to the pantry.” That is much better than the normal tasking command of, “Here is your assignment, you have no option to refuse!”

-Paul Richardson is the proprietor of In Sane Marketing. He also writes a weekly column, The Horse I Rode In On, for The Neosho Daily News and The Aurora Advertiser.