"Steve," she suddenly shot. My head jerked up, revealing to my wondering eyes a scene I'd witnessed many times before: my mother, a gentle-hearted woman with a beautiful and enduring soul, glaring daggers at my father. Not at my father, even. At his ear.
"What, hon?" My dad casually answered back, with a mouth filled to bursting point with carrots and pork chops. Growing up with eight other siblings, my father has perfected the Schulte tradition of "grab 'n' shove."
"You have potatoes behind your ear," my mother exclaimed, in a voice thick with disbelief and disapproval.
"Well," he grinned, his brilliant blue eyes crinkled in amusement, "whaddya know?"
As soon as I saw the corners of his chapped lips twitch, I knew my dad wasn't about to let his children leave the table without a show. We had been, were, and always will be, his favorite audience. And, although we would never admit it, he had been, was, and always will be, our favorite performer.
He extended his pinky finger, as if he were a British royal sipping tea, and swiftly removed the white mush from behind his near-deaf ear. Wracked with silent giggles, my sister and I spurred our hero on with jerky head nods and winks of support.
"Steve, don't you dare," my mother warned, raising her utensil as if it were a weapon, as if she could somehow "fork" her husband into behaving as the head of the household should. But it was too late. It always had been.
We watched-my scowling mother, my awed brother, my laughing sister, and myself-as my dad, the biggest ham you will ever meet, raised his pinky to his lips and dropped the mush into his awaiting mouth.
Amidst his children's applause and his wife's playful nagging, my dad smiled and scooped more potatoes onto his plate.