"Well," I thought to myself, "it's your own fault that you are
driving back to the grocery store after just spending an hour and a
I've spent the equivalent of the national debt in groceries, but
I forgot the most important thing. There's no sense in even showing
up at the house without this item. I remembered cookies and cat
food. I remembered shaving cream. I remembered poster board for a
school project. (Yes, I know that's not really considered groceries,
but sometimes a girl's got to multitask.) I remembered everything a
family of seven would need for two weeks, except the most important
thing: ketchup -- a plastic squeeze bottle of ketchup.
I can't buy the glass-bottled type anymore because my family is
not patient. If I buy the glass bottles, I can be assured that a
brawl will occur at the dinner table because as someone is beating
the tar out of the bottom of the bottle, trying to extract a small
amount of ketchup, a great glob of it will eventually come flying
out of the bottle into the plate of the person next to them.
However, this usually is only a problem if the ketchup lands on
food. No child at my house can eat food that has ketchup on it
unless it's been gently dipped with painstaking precision into the
ketchup by the "dippee." Blatantly dumping ketchup onto someone's
else's "clean" food is clearly a serious transgression.
Anyway, if I don't bring home ketchup, I will have no end of
problems. My son won't be able to eat a hot dog. My daughter can't
eat tater tots. My 4-year-old won't be able to eat anything, because
he thinks that ketchup is a throat lubricant and you have to have it
in order to eat real food (especially vegetables). Without ketchup,
they'll all starve!
I knew my family would have this kind of relationship with
ketchup the day that my teenage son, who was maybe 6 at the time (I
don't really know the correct age, but he couldn't read the word
"ketchup" yet) decided to continually interrupt a conversation I was
having with my husband.
"She said he was having an affair ..."
"Mom, is this ketchup?"
[to top of second column]
"... but he said that she was an old friend from ..."
"Mom, is this ketchup?"
"... somewhere -- I don't remember -- but ..."
"Mom, is this ketchup!?"
"... anyway, she didn't believe a word the lying ..."
"Annoyed" would be a very mild word for what I was feeling at
that time. I took the plastic jumbo bottle he was holding, slammed
it on the table at mach speed and yelled like a lunatic, "YES, IT'S
KETCHUP!!!!" as the contents of the brand-new jumbo bottle came
spewing out the top like Mount Vesuvius. I hadn't noticed that he
had taken the top off ... so sue me.
My son looked at me in shock, and I looked back just as a gob of
ketchup ran down my nose and dripped into my lap. My husband, also
covered with his fair share of the red tomatoey goop, wasn't sure if
I was still mad, so he was trying to hold back a hiccup of
uncontrollable laughter. It finally came out as a sort of
closed-mouthed snort-spit, which sent more ketchup flying into my
face. That was all it took. Rampant hilarity ensued.
After that event, ketchup was always at the table (my son has
since learned how to spell it) and my mindless temper tantrum is
always associated with the ketchup. It's almost as if they think I
need to be reminded of "the time that mom lost her cool" so that it
won't happen again. Of course it still does. I am the same person,
after all. But at least they know better than to put a bottle of
ketchup or some other highly volatile liquid in my hands when they
are annoying me.
[By LAURA SNYDER]
Laura Snyder may be reached at
or check her website,
www.lauraonlife.com, for more columns and info on her books.