The only members of my family who liked liver were our two collies, our cats and my parents. The rest of us, now in our 50s, 60s and 70s, still shudder whenever it is mentioned.
Wednesday night was always liver night. There could be great famine, floods and plagues. War could be declared. Our house could burn down and my mother would still find some way to give us liver. She was determined to prepare meals that were nutritional as well as filling. My father was equally determined that we develop educated palates. So we suffered.
When I was 11, my older brothers and sisters developed the liver scam. One of the big kids would take a small bread plate and pass it beneath the table to another. Slowly, oh so slowly, each child would take his liver from his dinner plate and place it on the bread plate. Which then made its way the length and breadth of the dinner table, right under our parents’ noses, until it returned to its source, heavily laden with nutritious, palate-enriching liver.
Our collies, King and Snuffy, had amazing coats that winter. We kids began to look forward to Wednesday nights, wondering how Moe or Gretchen would dispose of the evidence this time. And my mother was triumphant. As she looked at our bright faces at the table she was reassured that we had come to appreciate at least one of the finer things in life.
When I went to college and learned more about the cost of things, I developed guilty feelings about all of the expensive meat we’d been feeding the dogs over the years. I wanted to tell my parents, but Sandie, Mike, Pat and Chris were still at home. Could I turn traitor? Could I “narc” on my siblings?
Thomas Paine once wrote, “He who would safeguard his own freedom, would secure even his enemy from oppression.” I interpreted this to mean if I wanted a liver-free future for myself, I’d have to keep up my brothers and sisters’ cover.
We never told my parents. When we go out to dinner with them, no one ever feels in the mood for liver. And under no circumstances will any of us ever visit them on a Wednesday.
I didn’t really start out as a middle child. I was the sixth of my parents’ 10 children. My sister Gretchen (number five) and I called ourselves a “collective” middle child. We had fun with the idea. As you can imagine, living with nine siblings in the same house together, going to school together, working together, getting in trouble together, was great, at least for me, one half of a middle child. And I have lots of stories to tell.