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The big onion


Talked with Mom and Dad on the phone this morning.
The big news of the day was the Cubs. They don’t have cable so they couldn’t watch the series clincher against the Giants, but they did have a radio tuned in until about 10 p.m. That’s bedtime, they observe it pretty closely. It’s a rare evening that finds them staying up past or, even rarer, going to bed early.
We both agreed it’s actually better listening to it on the radio. The television announcers might be talking about what they had for lunch and completely miss describing the triple being played out on the field.
The late start of the games reminded me of catching the loveable losers while serving in the army in Germany. Because of the time zone difference, a 1 p.m. start here meant it was 9 p.m. there. The feed would come from WGN radio and be picked up by Armed Forces Radio, which had a broadcast antenna on base. Our first year, we lived too far away to get the signal so sometimes we’d load up the car and park nearer the signal. If we had money, we’d take a small transistor radio into a beer garden on the edge of the base; if it was near the end of the month, we’d just park and listen to it on the car radio.
I asked Dad if he listened to it on the radio while he was driving the Marshall Fields delivery truck, but he scoffed, “Hell, the first 10 years they didn’t even have heaters in the trucks much less radios.
The other big topic was the onion.
We got several of the huge bulbs while visiting Colorado. Friends of Sabra have an extensive and impressive garden which included several rows of the biggest onions we’d ever seen. I’m talking 3-plus pounds. We admired the pungent vegetables and the next thing we knew we were heading home with a bag of them.
Then we travelled to Chicago for a Cubs game and dropped two off at brother Bob’s house. He kept one and passed the other one to Mom and Dad.
My folks have always been hard to buy presents for. They’re 90ish and the last time they needed anything Dwight Eisenhower was president. Not that they are rich; no, just happy with what they have. They especially dislike anything extravagant, i.e. expensive. If they are going to appreciate a gift it must be: one, useful, and two, cost next to nothing.
My standard gift for Mom is a bottle of rhubarb wine purchased from the nearby Amana Colonies. Grandpa Sickler made the wine on the farm and Mom has always loved it. I think it tastes somewhere between turpentine and sour milk. But she loves it and I always have a glass with her.
For Dad, it’s Old Spice aftershave. Why you’d slap that stuff on your face especially after shaving I don’t know, but he always makes a big deal about getting a bottle. Somewhere in the house, I suspect, he’s got a shelf of the skin-stinging concoction squirreled away. One of these years, I’m going to switch the contents of the bottles and see if anyone notices.
Anyway, the onion was a big hit, they couldn’t have been more excited than if the Hope Diamond fell into their lap.
Like any other food lover, the first thing they did was put it out on the table so they could admire it and talk about how they were going to eat it. Mom was planning a banquet of liver and onions, while Dad was looking forward to a hamburger with a thick slice on top.
You’d think we gave them the Hope Diamond. But they wouldn’t have like that; too expensive.