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Mint Jelly

Did you ever have moments in your family when there is an unbearable tension, and you wish you could think of something to do or say to make everyone comfortable again? This is a light family story about a moment like that.

“Where is that damn mint jelly?” Mother fumed, pulling out various canned goods, throwing them back, and slamming kitchen cupboards.

“It’s really not that important,” I said, trying to calm her down.

“Yes, it is. And I know I bought some, I just can’t find it. Owen,” she called. “Can you go buy a new jar of mint jelly while I finish getting dinner on?”

The Search Began

My Dad appeared in the kitchen. “Okay, I’ll go,” he said. I knew he couldn’t be thrilled about it, but he was being a good sport.

After 20 years living overseas, my Dad retired from the Foreign Service and my parents bought a home in Oklahoma City. This was their first summer of retirement.

I could hardly believe my two-year-old son and I were actually “visiting the grandparents,” like normal families, having flown from Wisconsin. Alex loved his first flight, and he enjoyed staying there, going to the local park to feed the ducks and splashing in my parents’ swimming pool.

Now There Was a Problem

So far, the visit had been a delight, but now there was the problem with the mint jelly. When I was growing up, leg of lamb with mint jelly was my favorite dish, and Mother often made it for my birthday dinners. Now, to celebrate our visit, Mom was roasting a leg of lamb….which would not be complete, in her mind, without the mint jelly.

My Dad was gone quite awhile, so Mom began fuming again, “What in Heaven’s name is taking him so long?” Meanwhile, the roast lamb was resting and the browned potatoes were out on the counter, covered with foil. The frozen peas bubbled on the stove.


After about 30 minutes, we heard his car in the attached garage and my Dad plunged through the door to the kitchen. At 6’2” and 230 pounds, he was a big man. He leaned through the door frame with widened eyes and waved his arms in the air. “I couldn’t find any!” he exclaimed. “I went to four stores!”

Mother growled in frustration. “Where did you go?” she barked.

“I went to two Crest stores, the Homeland on May Avenue, and the 7-Eleven,” he answered.

So, Off She Went!

Without another word, Mother snatched up her purse and jacket and slammed out the service door to her car in the garage. It was no good trying to stop her.

The table was set and there wasn’t anything to do but wait for her return.

My Dad and I stood in the kitchen, looking at the floor in silence. Alex wandered in and out, but didn’t seem to mind waiting for supper.

After a short ten minutes, we heard Mother’s car in the garage.

“Did you find some?” Dad asked, as she plunked the brown paper bag down on the counter and peeled off her jacket.

Was She Successful?

“Yes,” was her only response. I’d been married long enough myself to recognize when there was a lot more to say but it seemed better not to say it.

“Where did you get it?” Dad wondered.

“Akins Market,” was all she added.

At last we all sat down at the round kitchen table with the beautiful roast lamb, browned potatoes, bright green peas, and mint jelly in a crystal dish. Alex could reach his plate from atop the Oklahoma City phone book (remember phone books?) and I cut up his meat for him.

Everything Should Have Been Relaxed and Happy

The atmosphere was filled with unspoken words and frustration. My parents stared at their plates.

Alex dug into his meal and my mother sighed as she passed me the mint jelly.

“I don’t believe I will have any,” I said.

She continued to extend the bowl without a word, her blue eyes unblinking, not comprehending what I said. My Dad’s head snapped up. I laughed and said, “Just kidding!” as I took the dish from her.

The Tension Was Broken

“You-ou-ou,” my Dad said, shaking his head at me. If I had been fifteen years younger I would have been in trouble.

Now, though, the air came back into the room and we all laughed. I do love a good leg of lamb…and the green mint jelly is my favorite.

Have you had the joy of bringing laughter back to your family, despite a tense moment?

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