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Creative Nonfiction Happy Inspirational

But First...Tacos!

Warning: Mentions slicing, chopping, dicing and multiple other abuses to vegetables for the expressed intent of masticating and devouring them.

(P.S. by author M.B. Added this warning because in my very first story posted on this site I admit I chopped down a personified tree for the purpose of building something else. The powers that be tagged the entry as containing abuse in an otherwise peaceful tale that I thought was suitable for children;)

A hazy smoke filtered throughout the kitchen and permeated the entire house with a delicious aroma. Combusted gas licked at the lava rocks in the flame table on the deck lined with comfortable seating for ten to twelve people. Bean bags, birdies and rackets stood at the ready next to the net and corn-hole targets on the back lawn. Decks of cards and Uno awaited risk takers in an upstairs game room. Plenty of pillows beckoned those ready for an all out war...

But first...Tacos!

Slicing and dicing tomato, chopping onion and yellow peppers, quartering black olives, shredding lettuce and cheese, mashing avocados. Setting out the salsa and chips and sour cream. Heating up some chicken nuggets for the littlest ones. Coffee brewing for the guys. Done with my part. Wife has seasoned the ground burger and is frying shells, corn and flour, in coconut oil for the health conscious, thus smoking up the entire house.

All is prepared. Time for the onslaught to begin. My favorite night of the week! Taco night!

And they're off! Who will be first to arrive?

Usually it is the oldest grand-daughter and her handy husband of three years. He really likes to eat but they have a brand new baby boy, our first great-grandson, so it is possible they won't come tonight.

Our sports enthusiast grandson walks over from around the corner before the rest of his family, especially when he has a tennis, soccer or band event to attend. Sometimes he eats one and is done and gone. He is going on sixteen so will be driving before the month is out.

His sisters won't be here tonight. The oldest one recently got her master's degree and has a job waiting for her in the burbs. Got moved into her apartment over the weekend.

The second sister left with her cousin after his visit last week. He now lives in North Dakota with his bride. She met a special young man at said cousin's wedding a year or so ago. They have kept a long-distance relationship alive ever since even though her mother doesn't approve because she still has two years of college to finish and she would be so far from home if they do decide to make it permanent. She'll be gone another week.

Their parents, our oldest son, recently retired from law enforcement, and his wife will arrive soon.

Our only daughter's husband comes over right after work if his construction project is in town. She and their eleven-year-old daughter will come in from the farm shortly. If their tall farm boy son doesn't have other plans he may bring his fiancee along. She is sister to his sister's husband. They plan on getting married in the fall so will take possession this month of the house they bought to fix up before the big event.

The daughter and her husband are the new grandparents of that precious baby boy. It is also their son with his bride in N.D.

Never can tell who out of our second son's family will show up and when. The two oldest have their own wheels and plans. His wife volunteers at many church functions so sometimes keeps the younger two boys with her or they may arrive with their dad after a day of fishing. But most of the time all six of them make it, maybe in four different cars. Reserved parking only on the street in front of our house on these nights.

Our youngest son and his wife attended two weeks ago probably for the last time for a long time because they moved to Florida this past week. That's something they've been wanting to do for a long time. Their two grown daughters moved into their own shared home in town early last month. They still plan on getting here as much as possible.

Of course, there are other members of the family that live out of state so rarely make it for the big events, mainly my own son with wife and four kids.

So, if you kept count, that's me, Papa, and Grandma, four adult children and their spouses, thirteen grandchildren plus three of their spouses or spouse-to-be, and one teeny, tiny great-grandson. Twenty-seven, give or take if any of them bring a friend or two, crammed into our eat-in kitchen and 14'x13' front room spilling into the great outdoors, weather permitting, or an upstairs playroom.

As you can tell, times, they are a-changing. Our once bustling overcrowded gathering is dwindling and aging from the chaotic past with thirteen or more stair-step aged kids to more mature ventures. We have lively discussions and sometimes Bible studies. “As for me and my house we will serve tacos. Salsa 24:7” says the wooden plaque on our kitchen wall given to us by one of the witty women. It hangs right next to the sign that says: 'Bless the Food before us, the Family beside us and the Love between us.'

We celebrate any birthdays happening during the week. Sometimes only one, sometimes multiples. Neighbors may wonder what all the caterwauling is about! Oh, what a night! Taco night!

I remember Sundays as a kid. Church, first and always, then to grandmother's house we would go. Big dinner laid out by Grandma. Nobody could put out a Sunday dinner like Grandma's. Then the adults would play cards. My two sisters and I would play with all the cousins. Not nearly as many cousins as we have gathering but still a bunch for lunch. It was a family tradition and you were not allowed to break tradition.

My wife remembers pretty much the same when she was raising her four children. It was tradition to show up at her mom's for a big Sunday meal. If not every week at least for all holidays and birthday celebrations. Sometimes your nucleus family was torn between needing to be at two big family traditions at the same time. Your side of the family and your spouse's.

This dilemma was what prompted her to suggest we start hosting our taco night. As her children started having families of their own, she didn't want them to be torn between two sides or be obligated to show up on Sundays to appease her desire to see everyone. They could come over for taco night whenever they could make it. No hard feelings if they couldn't come and it relieved them of feeling obligated to spend their Sundays at Mom's.

My wise wife only requested that the other side of their families respected our night and didn't plan big events to conflict with that night. For the most part that has remained maintainable. Not perfect all the time, but workable.

Why tacos? Three-fold. It was a favorite meal her mother made frequently so she knew how to make tacos when she claims she can't cook otherwise worth a nickle. If you saw my girth you would know that's not true. Except maybe when they are really young, everyone likes tacos and you can feed a crowd or a few. It was something I could pitch in and help with. (See the carnage dished out to the vegetables.)

We started this idea when the three grandchildren who will soon turn twenty were two-years-old. That's eighteen blessed years of sharing and creating memories. Family bonding on steroids.

Great thing is now if we can't have our regular taco night they miss it or one of them will volunteer to host.

What is sad is the grands are starting to scatter. Maybe that won't matter. The memories of this new tradition have been implanted in their hearts and in ours.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have a pillow fight challenge. But first...Tacos!

July 07, 2023 14:56

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62 comments

Rebecca Lewis
13:06 Jun 19, 2024

I enjoyed reading your story! It's got this wonderful, warm vibe that captures what makes family gatherings so special. The humor at the start is a nice touch and sets a fun tone. Keep up the awesome work!

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Mary Bendickson
14:42 Jun 19, 2024

Thanks

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TE Wetzel
07:08 May 20, 2024

Heartwarming tale. Reverence and respect for Taco Night is a sacrament.

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Mary Bendickson
11:02 May 20, 2024

Glad you found them tasty.🌮🌮

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Amanda Lieser
17:31 Aug 05, 2023

Hey Mary, Oh what a delightful tale. So much culture is embedded in the food we eat or don’t eat. I love the way you wrote about all these characters and managed to keep them straight in the way that only family truly can. It’s interesting how our families grow, only to separate. I’ve heard it’s a very western ideal. I loved that these characters prioritize their tribe all the same. This story made me hungry. :)

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Mary Bendickson
17:51 Aug 05, 2023

Glad you found it in good taste 🌮🌮🌮

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Martin Ross
17:53 Jul 22, 2023

Always tacos first — carnitas or chorizo street style with guac and MUY queso. Per your observations, I’m studying the tags and divining what “creative nonfiction” is and does. And this does it in a fun and breezy but thoughtful way — tacos are a cultural nod and a family unifier as well as being just the best. My daughter spends a lot of time at a park model campgrounds, and she told Sue some good old gal there complained about plans for a mariachi night similar to the country and rock Saturdays they do. Steph’s not always the most diversit...

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Mary Bendickson
19:17 Jul 22, 2023

Thanks. I was born in Texas. My family was familiar with tacos long before Taco Bell made them mainstream.

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Martin Ross
19:45 Jul 22, 2023

Though in fairness, TB 5-packs kept me alive in Indy during the late ‘80s. I know better now.😉

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John K Adams
22:28 Jul 20, 2023

Mary, I can sympathize with you re: the powers that be stifling your creative expression. Happened to me too. My answer to that was the story, 'Trigger Warning.' This was an unusual piece. The conflict is subtle as it concerns aging and the diaspora of the family dwindling over time. But who can argue with that title? In our house, tacos are akin to 'unholy communion.' Traditions are dismissed by the ignorant. You demonstrated the long term value of family traditions. Great stuff.

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Mary Bendickson
00:14 Jul 21, 2023

Thanks for liking and I will try to get over to your trigger warning soon. Gotta be somewhere else at this time. Okay So glad you warned about candy canes and gum drops. Never can tell when those sweets will do ya in.😜🍬🎄👶🧑‍🎄

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John K Adams
01:48 Jul 21, 2023

No pressure.

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Graham Kinross
21:58 Jul 14, 2023

For me, I prefer fajitas… The title reminds me of something that one of my friends would say when they’re out drinking and then have quoted back at them for years. I like the food as a family language because that’s something so many people can relate to, especially if they live away from home and having a meal together becomes the ritual when they meet either at home or at some restaurant that’s at a geographical average of where people live. The casual family depictions are really good. You’ve got the way that families drift away captured...

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Mary Bendickson
00:32 Jul 15, 2023

Thanks for liking and commenting. Fajitas work.

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Russell Mickler
17:30 Jul 13, 2023

Hey there, Mary - Well, you've got a pretty popular piece going on here - let's check it out! I liked your warning at the beginning and then the postscript to the warning ... Definitely taco night. A lot of familial references draw a connection with the reader. Settling into a moment of reflection on whereabouts and connections. It's so specific, it feels written from personal experience maybe? Ending on the tacos. I think the connection made between having a family ritual and needing to bring connection into one's life because of our ge...

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Mary Bendickson
17:44 Jul 13, 2023

Definitely personal experience. My husband telling his perspective of our taco nights.

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Russell Mickler
17:51 Jul 13, 2023

Ah! Precisely - it did have a ring of super familiar from a 2nd party ... R

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Luca King Greek
13:51 Jul 13, 2023

I feel like I am part of the family now.

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Mary Bendickson
15:53 Jul 13, 2023

Sure, you can be part of our family. Always room for oneore😁

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Kevin Keegan
10:06 Jul 13, 2023

I really enjoyed reading your story. I thought it was very descriptive and these descriptions were handled brilliantly with care, it struck me that it would be very easy to make a mess of these but you did excellently. Well done Mary.

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Mary Bendickson
10:31 Jul 13, 2023

Well, tacos can be messy.😜 Thanks.

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Nina H
09:58 Jul 13, 2023

“Family bonding on steroids” - exactly! Loved this story, and could definitely relate. The Sunday meals, the traditions, the sad eventual scattering as time goes on. What a great solution to make a taco night as an open invitation for family time and memories!

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Mary Bendickson
15:32 Jul 13, 2023

It has been blessing for us. We will continue as long as we can then maybe one of the next generation will pick it up.

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Jarrel Jefferson
06:56 Jul 13, 2023

"Caterwauling" is an interesting word. This is a sweet story overall. At first I thought every single family member would be too busy to attend taco night, making it a sad story, but such a divided family probably wouldn't have a taco night to begin with. "Bless the Food before us, the Family beside us and the Love between us" is a line that perfectly sums up the theme of the story. "The love between us" part especially stands out, as to me the biggest takeaway is that the love between family members endures regardless of physical distanc...

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Mary Bendickson
10:26 Jul 13, 2023

When I first wrote it my husband did not like the fact I did use everyone's real name. He didn't think they would appreciate it. So I changed it to relationship only. As creative nonfiction I am the wife. I made it from my husband's pov because he loves it so much and I had never wrote anything with him the star.

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Jarrel Jefferson
02:33 Jul 14, 2023

That's sweet. I like it.

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Helen A Smith
06:03 Jul 13, 2023

Food in the form of tacos! The best way to keep the family together through all the changes life brings. Keeping a big family tradition alive, but beneath that the clear sense of time passing is ably shown (a hint of sadness too). A great take on the prompt. Im sure it would taste delicious too!

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Mary Bendickson
15:28 Jul 13, 2023

Thanks for reading and liking. Time has a way of moving on. Doesn't mean new traditions may be started

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Helen A Smith
15:59 Jul 13, 2023

Often, the old ones are the best.

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Melody Watson
03:04 Jul 13, 2023

Often tacos are requested by all members of my family when the mother-in-laws asks when she has invited over for a family dinner. Must be tradition.

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Olivia Lake
03:44 Jul 12, 2023

I come from a very small family, and while we love each other, I don't know if we can say that we really know each other. I love reading about big families with fun traditions that are rooted in good food and affection. It's such a cozy atmosphere.

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Will Oyowe
13:14 Jul 11, 2023

Love this story if bittersweet when i read it. The bonds are family are tight but as we move through life some of those bonds fade and in future generations will probably be broken without holding it together. (Thats what I got from this story) Sometimes its the simple things that connect us.. Tacos! Every family needs Tacos.

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Mary Bendickson
14:47 Jul 11, 2023

Here, here!

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Michał Przywara
20:38 Jul 10, 2023

This very much feels like a "centre of the web" thing, where the taco night is the core that keeps the family together. Not everyone attends all the time, but this is where family paths cross, where news is shared, and so on. Story wise, it's clear this is important to the narrator, as they are aging - and noticing their family is aging too, and moving on in various ways and to various places - and it keeps them connected to loved ones. They've made peace with the fact that not everyone will be there every time, because the important thing ...

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Mary Bendickson
20:59 Jul 10, 2023

Thanks for reading/ liking and commenting. Got it exactly right.

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Michelle Oliver
03:44 Jul 10, 2023

Sweet story. I like how traditions grow and change as families expand. And this bit about them missing it if you can’t do it is so true. Great slice of life. Loved the trigger warning. Will have to check out mutilated trees now!

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Mary Bendickson
04:14 Jul 10, 2023

Thanks for the comment.

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Jack Kimball
21:40 Jul 09, 2023

Wonderful Mary. And well written! Modern society dictates the splitting up of families, a corporate promotion to across the country, a desire for wanderlust. The tradition of regular family gatherings is said by some to be coming back. I hope so. You've inspired me to give it a harder try.

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Frostie Whinery
20:09 Jul 09, 2023

A cozy, wonderful story! Makes me think back to my childhood when we’d go to my grandmothers every Sunday for supper. Thank you for sharing!

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Linda Lovendahl
19:35 Jul 09, 2023

This story is a tribute to your family tradition. I learned two new words through it: power to be (want to put hyphens between the words because they all belong together to make sense!) and fiancée (I'm a French student and didn't learn this one---needs the accent mark too). Salsa 24:7 as a Biblical reference is clever! Thank you!

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Mary Bendickson
19:40 Jul 09, 2023

I don't know how to make accent marks and never sure of the spelling for that word. Thanks for commenting.

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