Life at our house was a mad-house on better days. Daddy worked rotating shifts. For second shift he had to leave the house by two in the afternoon. He always had a lot going on before work, so he wouldn’t sit down to dinner (lunch) until one or one-fifteen. Mother always served a hot, sit-down meal with meat, two vegetables, and biscuits or cornbread. According to Daddy, she was disorganized, so it challenged her to get the meal on time and his lunch made at the same time. Added to this, Daddy didn’t want cold cut sandwiches in his lunch bucket. He was fine with peanut butter and jam, scrambled eggs, cooked meat like ham, round steak, or barbecue, particularly if they were on Mother’s oversized biscuits. He was also happy with left-overs from home like chicken and dumplings, stew and cornbread. He also wanted dessert or fruit, and hot cocoa or iced tea, depending on the season, in his thermos. I don’t know why she had trouble getting all this together, especially since she always had a baby or two underfoot. I guess Daddy was right. She was just disorganized.
In theory, it should have helped when Phyllis and I got old enough to help out. Maybe sometimes it did, but I was easily distracted. One day, I was rushing to get Daddy’s lunch ready while Mother and Phyllis got the meal on the table. His thermos was sitting on the counter. I shook it, found it sloshed, and tucked it in his lunch box. We ate; Daddy grabbed his lunch, and rushed out the door. I didn’t see him that night, but the next morning, he had something to show us. “When I opened my thermos and poured, this is what came out. It nearly made me vomit.” He demonstrated, tipping his thermos to pour out cold, slimy dishwater. Three green peas, a carrot slice, and some tired soap bubbles floated on top. Almost bursting to laugh, I managed to act sick, rushing to the bathroom. That act probably saved my life, since I was the one who’d packed the dishwater for him.