Friday, February 19, 2010

My Tuna Casserole Day

My Tuna Casserole Day
My two Montana cousins and I had just returned from a trip to my old family home in southern Indiana , where aunts and uncles and mobs of other cousins gathered in celebration of my Aunt Mary’s ninety-fifth birthday. For six days we basked in our historical culture, with love, hugs, abundant food, and family stories with everyone talking at once. It was a good trip. On the way back to the Cincinnati airport we only got lost once. We made every connection, complete with our luggage. It was a trip to treasure.

I got home at midnight. I slept well. So why, next morning, did I feel punky, lethargic, and just plain blue? I had just spent the past week surrounded by loving friends and relatives. I should be walking on clouds. Instead, I was dragging my face along the floor. I knew there was only one thing that would dig me out of this pit. I needed a Tuna Casserole Day.

Now to experience a true Tuna Casserole Day, one must feel downright depressed. Self-pity is essential. Loneliness is a must. An ability to wallow in misery is vital.

Here are the rules for a Tuna Casserole Day. You must don a shabby bathrobe. Well, but not just shabby. It must be old, shapeless, stained, unwashed, smelling of sweaty nights and days in bed, colored with evidence of melted chocolate wiped from your fingers, coffee dribbled from blubbering lips and sleeves used to wipe your runny nose. Get the picture? It is against the rules to wash this rag, ever. (I recommend you have a hidey hole where the thing can be stored when not in use.) Health and Safety Warning: This item is to be worn sparingly, in emergency situations only.

Shut the blinds. Lock the doors. Disconnect the phones. Tune the radio to tear-jerking country music. Limit your television watching to soaps. Junk food is taboo. It is too entertaining. Limit your food intake to something that matches your mood. For you it might be chicken noodle soup from the can or maybe cream of wheat. For me it has to be tuna casserole.

Wallow. Yes, wallow. Really wallow. Get down and dirty. Of course the world is going to hell in a hand-basket. Feel it. Of course your life is worthless. Know it. Of course the future of humanity is hopeless. Of course you are broke and dying. Wallow in it. Oh, did I mention, it’s critical you set a timer? You don’t want to be stranded here forever.

So I crawled out of bed trying to remember where I had hidden The Bathrobe when I heard a knock on the door. It was Jerry, a long-time friend from Washington . He said, “Remember when we used to make those gratitude lists? I decided to take a road trip to see you and talk about gratitude.”

Gratitude. My Tuna Casserole Day was doomed. As I watched my day of wallowing slink out the door, I noticed the sun was shining. “Let’s go,” I said.

I had heard there are some spectacular badlands north of Hinsdale on Rock Creek. We decided to try to find them. And find them we did, a miniature Grand Canyon . We made several stops during our journey. We picked up a truly huge snake skin of the lethal variety of snake. At the edge of a field of spring wheat, we found a fist-size agate, a treasure. To our surprise, we spotted a pond full of pelicans. At the high water mark of the creek where we stopped to fish, we found some farmer’s long lost favorite screwdriver with the handle missing. Along the way we talked about old times, mutual friends and plans for the future. We ended the day in Malta with a meal fit for the gods.

So now my Indiana trip is memory. Jerry is headed back to Washington . The rain has stopped. The sun is out. I went out my back door, clippers in hand and returned with a fist full of poppies, a couple sprigs of mock orange, blue bachelor buttons, a late peony, chive blossoms and milk weed blooms. I arranged them in the antique blue glass bowl, a gift from Aunt Mary, and set it on my dining table.

The world is filled with beauty. Life is wonderful. The future is today and I am rich. Who needs a tuna casserole!


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