"Ed, Don’t Forget to Get the Legs for Jack"

Swanson Fried Chicken Dinner

When I drive home from work, I like to use the 25 to 30 minute commute to catch up with my Mom. It is a nice transition from the drumbeat of work to stories about drum sticks and chicken legs. Perhaps I should explain.

During my drive home, Mom and I will usually go through a quick review of what is new since we last spoke. Since we speak daily, we usually don't have a lot of news to discuss. I’ll share what Ra El and I had for dinner and what movie from the 40’s we watched the night before on AMC with our favorite host, Robert Osborne. Mom will tell me about where she went during the day, what she is planning on eating for dinner and a quick recap of what shows or movies she planned to view in the evening. Often we get on a tangent talking about this or that.

TV dinners on snack trays
On Thursday, she was telling me about The Chew, a TV talk show about food. This episode was about food from the 1950's and the panelist were dressed up in Mickey Mouse Club costumes and were discussing old fashion TV dinners. This led to a discussion about Swanson TV dinners, which led to talking about fried chicken memories I had from the early 60’s.  Mom and Dad would be going out on a Saturday night and Diane and I would get to eat a Swanson TV dinner in front of the TV on one of those snack (stack?) tables. 
Jeff and Diane- waiting for our TV dinners

I remembered the fried chicken, mashed potatoes; corn and dessert all tucked away in their little aluminum compartments. It was a joy-filled memory for me.  This led to Mom reminding me of a fried chicken place that Mitchell used to like after Diane and I were out of the house in the late 60’s and early 70’s. I think it was called the Chicken Nest on Mountain Avenue in Springfield.  From here, the story led to the favorite fried chicken of my parents- Kentucky Fried Chicken.  She recounted how much she and my Dad loved KFC and unfortunately the only one nearby is on Route 22 and she won’t drive on that highway. She thought that when Harrison comes home from college, he could drive her to Route 22 and she could get some of this delicacy. (According to mom, the secret is their spices. I didn’t know that).

Swanson TV Dinners Advertisement from 1960's. 

This shaggy dog story wandered all over the place for about ten minutes as I am zooming along Route 540 on my way home.

Finally, Mom remembered that about 10 years ago, after they stopped going to Phillips Avenue Beach in Deal, New Jersey for July 4th, Ed and Beverly Denner would invite them over to their house where they had a swimming pool.

“No one went swimming”, according to Mom. “But we would sit around and enjoy being together.  And, the best part was they would get Kentucky Fried Chicken”.

Shhhh. Don't tell anyone but Mom told me the secret is their seasoning. 

The first year they attended this party, Dad went over to the bucket and there were no chicken legs. Dad loved the dark meat. (So do I). Mom said that since most people like the chicken breast, that was all they had. They had a lovely afternoon at the Denner’s but when they were leaving, Beverly told Ed, “next year, don’t forget the legs for Jack”.

Why did this story stick in my head like breading on a fried drumstick?

Deliberate Acts of Kindness
Mom and her sister-in-law Lolly Winick
It occurred to me that this week, I got to witness or hear about several deliberate acts of kindness. And, isn’t it interesting how an act of kindness can be baked into our memories and show up so many years later?
This week I observed, at a distance, my sister taking my Mom to visit my Aunt (Dad’s sister Lolly). It was a selfless act of kindness and one that Diane did out of honor and respect for both Mom and in memory of Dad. I know that my sister made my Mom happy, my Aunt Lolly happy and I could feel my father’s warmth of appreciation directed at his daughter.

Mitch, Georgia and Mom celebrating a Giant victory

I learned about my brother Mitchell, making sure that Mom got to be with him to watch the Giants win some big football game that apparently took place last weekend. They had a Super time and Mitch could have easily gone to a party or been with his friend without feeling the need to take Mom along.

Harrison and Georgia Slater with Bea Slater at iHop
I know that Mom baked a special pie that her grandson Harrison loves and that she brought it to Mitch and Leslie so that the pie could make the trip to Penn State. Mom even included paper plates and plastic forks since who knows what kids use at college to eat cake? 

I read on Facebook about Fanny’s friends in LA who in learning that Fanny was leaving LA to head back to the East Coast decided to throw a party to honor her and was calling it, “Kiss Your Fanny Goodbye!” I was touched to know that she has made such an impression on this group in such a short period and that her good friend Loryn was so kind to help celebrate Fanny.

Fanny, Ra El and Sarah
I witnessed my wife Ra El on the phone with both Sarah and Fanny for over an hour, when both girls had things on their mind and needed someone to listen and just unconditionally love them for that brief moment in their day. Supporting, loving and just showing up was what both needed and since it was late, they knew their Mom would be present with them to acknowledge their feelings and emotions. 

So the week was filled with deliberate acts of kindness that got woven together with memories of fried chicken and a simple gesture remembered from a decade ago. What will you remember ten years from now about a simple gesture of kindness that you witness or hear about? 

Life is so filled with sweetness and special seasoning- you just need to savior it. It helps if it comes with coleslaw and biscuits too. 

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