Eating out was a rarity when I was a kid. We had our meals at home on the kitchen table; we used the big table only for Sunday Supper. For those that don’t know what supper is, well, it’s now dinner. We had breakfast, dinner, supper; somewhere along the way the word lunch became dinner and dinner became supper. In my house we did our best to have all four. The word supper remained the vernacular of my grandparents.
Going to town was a big deal when I was a very young boy. Leesburg (Virginia) was different then; it was the center of the universe. It had grocery stores, a Five & Ten Shop, pharmacies, hardware stores, clothing shops, movie theater, restaurants plus all the professionals such as doctors, lawyers and shoemakers. It was the mall of my childhood and integral to a way of life now long past.
I was probably 4 or 5 when I went with my Mom downtown one day, most likely for a doctor’s appointment or other such thing. Usually I stayed home with my Grandfather when Mom went to town. She would go with either my Grandmother or my beloved Aunt Ann because Mother didn’t drive, that was a skill she finally learned in her middle fifties. I guess Grandaddy was busy or pretended to be because he wanted a break from me following him around from chore to chore, but it was more likely he had chickens to kill for supper. I didn’t know that we raised our chickens for food then; I thought that when Daisy or Cluckles came up missing they just ran away to another henhouse or were out visiting friends. The truth hit me one day when Grandaddy made me hold Henrietta down on the block as he did the deed; I was shocked and tearful, he just turned and said, in a sad wise voice, “I thought it’s about time you knew.” Sunday Supper wasn’t the same for awhile.
On that trip downtown my Mom and I went to Edwards Drugstore, I’m guessing she had to wait for a prescription to be filled. So we waited in a booth in the soda fountain-dining room section of the store. Usually we sat at the counter and on a rare occasion I could order a Vanilla Coke, but we didn’t ever sit in a booth. On this glorious day we did, and when the waitress came over for our order, my Mom ordered two Cokes and two ham and cheese sandwiches on white toast. She still orders that today when she goes to lunch. It’s important to remember that my sandwich eating history at that time was only written by my Mom and my Grandmother, and they served it the only way that I thought God in his wisdom would have a sandwich made – cut straight across the middle making two symmetrical rectangles.
When the sandwiches arrived that day they were cut diagonally. What the hell? I just stared at my sandwich, I had no intention of putting that in my mouth. My Mom noticing my wide eyed fear asked what was wrong. Looking at those pointed sharp ends of toasted bread they became swords, razor sharp. When I told Mom that I couldn’t bite it because it would cut me, she lifted my sandwich, took a small bite to prove that it was safe and said that it was “drugstore cut.” I don’t think I ever enjoyed a sandwich more; that small memory of sharing between my mother and I became ingrained in our DNA, intrinsic in our relationship from that second forward.
My mother is 83 now, and on the occasion she makes me a sandwich in her kitchen she will hold the knife above the bread and its stuffing and ask me as she has from that special moment on, “regular or drugstore.”