Pony Express - How the meatballs saved Christmas
This message was left on our phone about a week before Christmas by our 13-year-old grandson, Christian: "Grandma, I really love your meatballs and I hope you bring some when you come over for Christmas."
When you make great meatballs, not only does your family plead for them, but word gets around.
A few years back, Eartha had prepared a huge bowl of meatballs for a church supper in midwinter. The committee was counting on Eartha's meatballs, but she was delayed in getting there.
As she hurried toward the back door of the church, she slipped on the ice and half of the meatballs spilled into the snow just outside the door. While it may be true that the snow around the church is cleaner, whiter and fluffier than anywhere else, half the load was lost.
She rushed into the kitchen with the other half bowl. "Just in time," they gasped, "we're running short." Eartha explained that the other half was in the snowbank. "Go out and get those meatballs," they insisted, "we'll dust them off and nobody will know the difference."
So she rushed out, pulled those wonderful meatballs out of the snow, brought them in, they were dusted off and nobody knew anything until this very day.
The folks loved them -- especially the Catholics, Methodists and Baptists who had no idea how things are done in the Lutheran church.
Over the years, Eartha's meatballs only got better and better and her legend grew and grew.
In December, even before Christian's call, Eartha was beginning her annual Christmas meatball preparations.
She made a ton of them -- about 25 people were expected for the Christmas dinner in Fargo (50 miles away for us) and all but two eat meat.
When they were finished, they were put in a cool spot in the garage. "We'll put the meatballs here," she told me "so we won't forget to load them up when we go to Fargo."
The morning of the day before Christmas, was a rush of activity at our house. Christmas gifts, packages, secret boxes and cards were all loaded, then cakes, cookies, casseroles and salads were all stacked and secured so nothing would slide, tip or spill.
Then when we shot over to Fargo, the car was unloaded and much of the food for the next day was taken to Christian's screened-in porch, where it would stay cool until dinner preparation the next day.
What a warm gathering we had -- hugs, handshakes, pats on the back and "Merry Christmas" everyone. We went to church together, sang Silent Night and came back for snacks and opening the gifts.
Everything was working beautifully -- like clockwork, except I had a horrible cold.
The next morning was mostly casual: Robes, slippers, coffee and rolls, but the dinner preparation was getting into motion.
Eartha and I went into the screened-in porch to bring in our cooling food. You can see this coming can't you? When we got everything in, she looked at me and said "where are the meatballs?"
I thought about saying maybe we should take a look in the snowbank, but wisely, kept my mouth shut.
Then, one blink later, we both knew -- those meatballs were in that cool spot in our garage where we would see them and not forget to take them to Fargo.
Nobody blamed anybody --- we'd both forgotten them -- but I was the guy directing the loading-up process.
I felt like a so-called wise man who had ridden for days on my camel following a star, but had forgotten to bring the frankincense. I was devastated -- Christmas dinner without meatballs? I had disgusting images of frozen pizza and pickled herring. Yuck.
But Eartha had no such images. It took her about two minutes to decide. She had made a hundred meatballs and, by God, we were going to have them for Christmas dinner. Her family, especially the grandchildren, were counting on it.
"Where are the car keys?" she demanded. She was putting on her coat and getting ready to ride to the rescue. "I can go," I sheepishly volunteered. "Not with that cold" she said. "Give me the keys."
Only the two of us knew what was going on. Somebody saw her heading for the door and asked where she was going. "I'm running an errand," she said with a grim, determined look on her face.
So off she went into the winter morning -- 50 miles to Detroit Lakes, got those meatballs out of the cool spot in the garage, and 50 miles back to Fargo with the precious cargo.
So that's the true story of how Eartha saved Christmas by rescuing the meatballs.
The dinner was served right on schedule and the Lutherans, Catholics, Methodists and Baptists feasted in peace and harmony. You may remember how Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer saved Santa's hash so many years ago on a foggy Christmas Eve.
Well, move over Rudolph -- Eartha saved the meatballs. You'll both go down in history.