Mom always cooked good food. In fact dinner was an important event for the whole Gumaer clan. The thing was, we rarely ate it together. An announcement would come from mom, standing beside a simmering pot that, “Chicken Katchitori’s on the stove, help yourself!”
If I were at that moment hungry, a helping would find it’s way to my lap as I fought with my younger brother Pete about what channel the TV was on. At any given time between 6:00 pm and 9:00 pm the family members, uncles, friends, and hangers on at our aqua blue trailer would settle into this nightly routine.
Our dining table was never a place to eat at. Laps were for eating. The table was for piles. Not little piles either but colossal piles of papers, books, sewing and craft supplies, and all manner of kit that didn’t find a better place to land. The table was the repository of mom’s eclectic life.
In my teenage years, after dinner was finished and I did the dishes, one of us would begin the sacred ritual by rolling a joint. Our clan would gather together for the first time that day with relaxed posture and familial acceptance of one another. It was J time. It was time to roll the scared spliff. As a kid I believed that this paper wrapped and saliva sealed cylinder of green buds could fix all frustration, pain, and anxiety. It was my religion.
Whoever had the best pot would proffer their stash and I, occasionally my step dad, would roll the joint. Then, in solemn respect, the marijuana cigarette would be lit and we would each partake of its peace inducing smoke. Peter would pipe in with his feelings about the day, mom would listen, respond sagaciously, and offer some assurance that everything will be just fine.
I always tried to act like I had it together. I had a clean room, grew my own pot, and was a social boy. I liked to read. Mom would affirm me as The Son, The one who would go to college and make proud the clan. For my 11th birthday mom gave me a Ball canning jar full of marijuana. She wanted me to be an open minded and soulful guy and this was her gift to me, complete with a red bow ribbon, as I started to form thoughts of my own about life.
Christmas and Easter never meant much to me. I didn’t care about birthdays or labor-day. We never had family reunions. I had no close cousins or grandparents to lean on. The only tradition my family had as a kid, the only one that touched me, was the times when we would smoke marijuana together. That was our quality time.
Any of the extended family, the hurting, abused, and the whatever’s who happened to be there for our communion, would sit with us in amazement. They wondered at our love, at our talk, at the way mom led the event with her outgoing stream of love and acceptance. After the 11:00 pm feature presentation on channel 2 they would mention their feelings to mom, how it ministered to them to be a part of such a healthy and loving family before getting into their rumbling rust bucket to drive home.
In high school I often wished for a family like David’s. His mom made dinner at 5:30 every night. It was then that their family of six would all sit at the dinning table (like I said, we never had one of those) and politely pass the peas, the baked chicken, the potatoes au gratin, and the water pitcher. They celebrated Christmas and Easter in traditional ways. David’s mom was perfect. She was kind and dieted. She would dole out allowance on Friday night after dinner with a smile. She made quilts. His dad sold insurance and they had one of the only swimming pools in Fairbanks, Alaska.