Stone Soup

Well, another six months have gone by without a post! Shame on me.  Sorry about that, but I’ve been involved with a paranormal investigation group, (sort of a natural fit for me) which has been taking up most of my time on weekends (I post most often on weekends). So unfortunately the blog has taken a back seat lately. The group broke apart, in the end, so now that that’s over, I can get back to blogging, right?

One of my nieces was recently in a professional stage production (college level – and she’s 9!) of Peter Pan. Pretty decent production values. Fog, smoke, gunpowder, a flying girl playing a flying boy (they used harness wires, so they looked like they were really flying) – it was all there. I really enjoyed the show.

It made me think of my own short foray into theater. Oh, I did drama in Forensics in high school (see previous post titled “Forensics”) and even took a theater class in college – by a professor who taught Tom Hanks, no less.

But alas, Broadway was never meant for me, it would seem, except for as a paying customer, of course. I love theater, and always will. No, my theater days were unfortunately limited to school plays in elementary school. I am SO proud of my niece for her accomplishments, and I’m thankful that she never had any theatrical setback so mortifying as to end an acting career before it began. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same thing.

November, 1978. My fourth grade class put on this play called “Stone Soup.” The basic idea here was that you had these two bums drifting through town on a cold autumn evening, and they stop to boil some soup. Except all they have is an empty pot and a large rock. Not a great start as far as original recipes go. Don’t call Progresso just yet. I’m just sayin.

Well, our two transient heroes manage to find some water and a grocer gives them some salt. Someone else comes by and gives them some pepper. A farmer comes by and gives them some vegetables. And so on. Before you know it, they have a large cauldron full of hearty broth, and the entire community is standing around the fire singing in friendship. Cute. Progresso is on hold on Line 2, and there is plenty of Stone Soup for everyone. There were some messages here – about working together as a community, about charity, and brotherhood.

And about local city and county ordinances.

I got to play the cop – I come along and ask – “Hey, there isn’t a real rock in there, is there?”

“Wouldn’t be Stone Soup if there weren’t, right?” comes the oh too-friendly answer. So I whip out my ticket book, but after one taste, I am won over by the warmth of the community, the friendship and brotherhood, and of course, by Stone Soup. We all end up singing around the fire, arm in arm. And no one even said anything about my Cub Scout uniform not looking anything like a police officer’s uniform. Heh.

Well, after the play, my teacher announces that the school cafeteria is open for a special treat for everyone – Stone Soup! As everyone lined up for a bowl of hot stew, the solid unmistakable ‘thunk’ of rock against metal could be heard each time my teacher stirred the giant pot of soup.

I never mentioned that my father worked in town for the State Health Department, did I?

So my dad and mom get to the front of the line, and my dad asks my teacher, almost as if he felt foolish asking such a seemingly ridiculous question, “Hey, there isn’t a real rock in there, is there?” He tried to rob the question of any offense with a halfway grin.

My teacher responded, “Why, sir – it wouldn’t be Stone Soup if there wasn’t, would it?”

“No, seriously……..” And then my teacher used a pair of oversized spoons to retrieve a 10 pound round boulder from the bottom of the soup pot.

So, to my mother’s complete mortification, and my irrecoverable embarrassment, my dad made everyone dump their soup out, closed down the kitchen, and sent everyone home without dinner.

I know he was trying to do the right thing, I know he thought he was preventing some pandemic, but I am SURE the rock was washed in hot soap and water before being placed in the pot. I mean, I kind of doubt anything would have happened. Still, I guess it’s like the cop that lets the drunk driver go because he’s only two blocks from home – the worst can still happen in that two blocks. Duty first, and all of that. I mean, I do get it. And I really don’t think he was trying to be mean or was trying to embarrass me. Oh, but embarrassed I was – I just wanted to crawl under the table and hide.

Of course, everyone went home on a sour note, and the evening was more or less ruined. To add insult to injury, my dad hit a skunk on the way home in our brand new 1978 Chevrolet Suburban – he hit it so dead-on that the thing stuck to the inside of the front right wheel well and smelled like Hell itself (I still had my sense of smell at this point in my life, unfortunately….) That put my dad and everyone else in a further foul mood.

Well, we got past it, there were eventually no hard feelings, at least on my part (and it took a while for me to get there, I have to say) and life moved on.

Progresso never called, and I was never asked to participate in another school play after elementary school, although in 5th grade I did get to write and produce my own short play with my friend Chuck – “The Money Tree.” But perhaps that is another story.