by Pauline Campos
Every family has that story that, no matter how many times it’s told, @)never gets old b)always triggers debate on who’s side of the story is actual truth and c)reinforces the fact that it’s only safe to eat meat products at my in-law’s if I have actually seen them purchase it at the grocery store and take it out of the plastic-wrapped packaging upon arrival at home.
Okay, so the last one probably only pertains to me, but when The Father-in-Law is known for his fondness of rabbits and squirrels (keep up with me, class, ‘cuz I’m not talking about Let’s Name it Floppy here. It’s more like I think it Needs More Salt and Maybe Some More Pepper) it’s generally wiser to avoid blindly digging into an offered bowl of mystery stew meat while everyone else stares you down in a ridiculously failed attempt to look nonchalant.
But as a first-generation Mexican-American, I was raised to respect my elders at all costs. This translates into Never Talking Back, Always Calling Any Family Friend As Old As The Parents Tia or Tio, and Eating What’s Been Prepared Even if You Think What Was Prepared Had Probably Been Burying Some Acorns Out Back Before He Got, um…Prepared.
“Have some more,” said The Father-in-Law jovially. “There’s plenty more where that came from.”
I know, I thought. I almost ran over a crazed squirrel trying to escape your yard before becoming the next recipe experiment. I think he was sending out warning squeaks to the neighbor’s squirrels. Out loud I only mm-hhmmed while silently cursing my Need to Please and took another dainty taste. It tasted…cute. I felt sick, but forced a smile. “It’s really good but I’m full right now. We just ate.”
I shot a warning glare at The Husband while The Father-in-Law’s eyes danced in silent victory as he cleared my bowl of It’s Not Squirrel Stew away. The Husband, smart man that he is, didn’t contradict me, saving me the hassle of having to contact a divorce lawyer later that afternoon.
Weeks went by. I stopped worrying about my eternal soul after avoiding enough squirrels in the road to figure my karmic energy had been cleansed, and was only reminded of The Stew I Did Not Actually Like when The Mother-in-Law called to speak to The Husband. It was time to let me in on The Joke.
“Remember that stew Dad had at the house?” The Husband asked me as I heard his mother laughing on the other end of the line. “You liked it, didn’t you?
“Depends,” I said, my arms crossed in front of my chest. Any hope I had that I had let my imagination get the best of me was now dashed. “What was it?”
“Squirrel,” said The Husband, his body doubling over in laughter. “And you liked it!”
“No I didn’t. I was just trying to not hurt his feelings,” I insisted. “I knew it tasted funny when I ate it. I just knew it.”
And this is where the parties involved take sides, leaving me standing alone while they all snicker about Pauline and The Day She Liked (Eating) A Squirrel.
Pauline M. Campos is a former journalist-turned-stay-at-
home-mom to Buttercup. She blogs at Aspiring Mama (Parental Advisory: Occasional F-Bombs Dropped) and can be found on Twitter as @aspiringmama. She has written a book and is currently looking for an agent in the hopes of convincing her mother-in-law that writing in her pajamas is, in fact, an actual job.