“If your mother serves fried combat boot, you kids will eat it.”
Thus ended any potential debate on the edibility factor of canned beets and succinctly describes the negotiation-free tone of my childhood. We were five kids who held second-class citizenship status to the ultimate authority figures: the Old Sarge and She Who Must Be Obeyed. Our self-esteem was of so little importance as to not register a tremor on their Richter Scale of parental concerns; our behavior, however, would sometimes result in seismic aftershocks. We were Lennards, after all, and expected to act that way.
“Behavior” included table manners and the art of conversation both of which were honed during the sacrosanct dinner hour, six o’clock SHARP. Lennards are always on time. We’d flinch a bit if the phone rang during dinner. “Lennards!” my father would bark into the phone and then inform one of us to “tell your damn friends not to call during dinner.” Sound despotic? Maybe, but with the tyranny always came tenderness. Flickering in my memory is the image of my young and handsome Dad on Saturday night with three big fingers shoved into a little shoe, buffing away in prep for Sunday church. Lennards don’t wear scuffed shoes, after all.