Life with my Dad

Stories I remember from growing up with a "spontaneous" Dad and a tolerant Mom who sometimes didn't think things through all the way before he implemented them. And some about my Mum as well.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

A 3 minute egg

For most people, practical jokes are an inconvenience to be tolerated with a weak smile and a vague hope that the perpetrator of the joke will spontaneously combust as retribution for their act. In my family a good practical joke is a thing of beauty to be carefully planned, plotted, and orchestrated. When sharing stories at family gatherings there is always someone who brings up a practical joke. The perfect practical joke becomes woven into the tapestry of our family history to be recounted and enjoyed again and again for years to come.


My parents were the masters of the practical joke. Their typical foil? My Uncle Pete. The one person in the world I know who can ALWAYS take a joke. The man has not only the greatest sense of humor but the greatest ability to laugh at himself without it becoming personal. Something I truly wish I could execute even half as well as Pete does.


The relationship my parents had with my aunt and uncle was truly something I have never seen duplicated since. Saying they were close to one another doesn't really cover the depth of their relationship. It's difficult to describe a relationship that allows people to tease and joke with one another with no one getting bent out of shape...ever. They never forgot that they loved and respected one another above anything else. Their friendship was truly a thing of beauty.


One weekend when my Aunt and Uncle were visiting, Pete announced, quite theatrically, that he wanted breakfast in bed. My Mum fell into her role nicely by asking what his majesty desired for his morning repast. The answer: a three minute egg (soft boiled)...not a second more...not a second less and soldiers (buttered bread cut into strips so they can be dipped into the boiled egg). Bowing to his royal highness, King Pete, Mum went to the kitchen to begin her preparations.


To understand the rest of this tale a little background information is necessary. Our house sat at the edge of a field in a small village in England. On alternating years the farmer who owned the field planted either wheat or sugar beets. When he would till the field prior to planting Mum and I would walk the rows and look for treasures. England is such an old country that today's life is lived on top of layer upon layer of history. The farmer's plow unearthed old pieces of pottery, clay pipes, and all sorts of debris from the lives lived on the land for hundreds of years.


One of our major finds was a china laying egg. These eggs were used by farmers to keep their hens sitting after raiding their nests. The egg was in perfect shape. Amazing considering it was buried in a field for decades and turned up by a tractor's plow! This treasure was about to take center stage.


When Mum went back to the kitchen she put a pot of water on to boil, popped bread into the toaster, put the kettle on for tea, and rinsed off the china laying egg. She prepared a nice tray to take for Pete's breakfast in bed, buttered and sliced the toast, brewed the tea, and dropped the china egg into the boiling water. She timed it perfectly. Three minutes...not a second more...not a second less. When three minutes had passed Mum put the steaming egg in to an egg cup on the tray and walked it into the bedroom. She placed the tray on Pete's lap and made a rapid retreat from the room.


Dad and I were waiting in the hallway after Mum delivered the tray to Uncle Pete. I'm surprised Pete didn't know we were there because we must have been giggling. They quickly shut the door behind Mum and we all stood quietly listening.


From the other side of the door we could hear some gentle rustling and general movement. King Pete was arranging himself and preparing for his royal feast. We could hardly wait to see what would happen next! Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, we got results as Pete picked up his spoon and attempted to open the top of the three minute egg. A loud, metallic "plink"...long pause..."plink" shorter pause..."plink, plink, plink"..."HEY!" came from the room. The spoon bounced of the egg with such a loud and satisfying "plink" we could hear it in the hallway without even pressing our ears to the door!

Mum, Dad, and I were almost falling down laughing in the hallway. Mum opened the door and asked if the egg was to his royal highness' standards. Pete, always being the good sport, was laughing right along with us and enjoying the joke. Eventually, Mum did come up with a three minute egg for Uncle Pete but not before etching another great practical joke into our family history.

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