When I was a kid things were a little tough. My mom did a great job considering she had seven children ranging from two to seventeen. It was hard enough being a widow but having two year old triplets when my dad died must have been exhausting.
Money was very tight and we made do. My mother would take a can of tomato soup, mix in a few cans of water and announce pink soup. If we had a nickel we would run to the store and buy a loaf of day old bread. It wasn’t so bad, there were a lot of people worse off than us.
My mom knew how to deal at the grocery store. She knew the produce manager and could get distressed vegetables for pennies. It was the relationship with the meat manager that got us the bologna.
The phone rang and it was the meat manager from the grocery store. He had a deal if we could come up right away. Luckily for us the social security check had just come and we were flush. My mom took my younger sister and me to the store and directly to the meat counter. The meat manager was a thin man with a friendly face and he excitedly asked my mom to step behind the counter.
My sister and I hugged each other in anticipation. What would it be? Pork chops? Hamburger? We prayed it wasn’t liver.
My mom came out with a cart and she was beaming. In the cart was the biggest Bologna we had ever seen. It was about five feet long and a good foot and a half around. She thanked the meat manager and took us to the register. It must have been a good deal, she told us that they had ordered too much and he got approval to give it to her below cost. I hadn’t seen her that excited in a long time.
Once home it took three kids and my mom to carry it in. She opened the refrigerator and took all of the racks out. She cut the bologna in half, put foil over the end of one half and stood the bologna in the fridge kitty-corner and it barely fit. Life was good. We had some day old bread so she cut us some slices and we dug in with a fervor that piranha would envy.
The next morning we had fried Bologna for breakfast. For lunch we had a nice wedge of bologna. For dinner she ground up some Bologna with a pickle and we had sandwich spread. My mother was incredibly inventive with the bologna. She would cube it and mix it with noodles for a casserole, cut up some potatoes and throw in some bologna. You haven’t lived until you’ve had scalloped potatoes made with bologna. Julia Child had nothing on my mom.
By day nine I was full of Bologna. I would try desperately at school to trade lunch but but seldom got any takers. On day thirteen a got a Braunschweiger sandwich that I can still taste.
On day seventeen I began to notice something, the bologna was enchanted. We had been eating the giant bologna for almost two weeks and it hadn’t decreased in size. Not only that but whenever someone would try to slice it one side would be an eighth of an inch thick and the other side would be a full inch or more. I went to my mother and told her that I believed the bologna was magic and she laughed. I told her there were precedents in history of magical food, Loaves and Fishes to cite one. She said that the Bible probably got that one wrong, it was probably Loaves and Bologna but to the people writing it down fish sounded better.
My brother Brad said the only magic in the bologna was that it caused incredible flatulence. There was no doubt about the bologna’s intestinal effects. That effect gave our six-year-old triplet boys endless enjoyment and also meant we had to drive with the windows rolled down.
On days when we didn’t have any bread we would put a thin slice between two thicker slices and call it a real bologna sandwich.
When we got some money again mom would make tomato soup, cut up thin slices of bologna, roll them up and we would dunk it in the soup. My mom was a true bologna artist taking powdered eggs, powdered milk, pieces of bologna and a little water and making her enchanted bologna omelets.
We stopped looking in the refrigerator because there was nothing in there except for the enchanted bologna. After school, weeks later my mom was at the counter with her old-fashioned iron meat grinder fastened to the counter. She was mixing in all sorts of things and I could see the end of the bologna. I ran to the refrigerator and the bologna was gone. I was in shock. What would cause the bologna to lose its magic?
We had our last meal of bologna that night and the next day the social security check came. I thought long and hard about it and came to a realization. Real magic is special and doesn’t last forever. It comes when it’s most needed and then leaves.
Many times in my life people have told me that I’m full of bologna. I always look them straight in the eye and say, “Yes, but it’s magic bologna.”