As Mother's Day approaches, I try not to forget all the little people who helped take much of the burden off of my mother as she raised three boys.
I'm not ashamed to say I led a life of privilege in my youth. I know that with great wealth comes great responsibility. I am first and foremost responsible to thank the humble people who served me.
I begin with our live-in chef, Phyllis — a culinary master with a curiosity for the most humble ingredients. I can still taste her mouthwatering croque monsieur featuring a slightly aged American fromage. And her poached tuna with béchamel sauce inspired, she revealed once, by an obscure German chef by the name of Hamburg Haelper.
But nowhere was her gift to transform the convivial into the sublime more evident than in her signature dish, a Hunt's catsup reduction drizzled over seared Spam. I remember the first time she lay the sumptuous offering upon our lacquered acrylic TV trays. My siblings and I erupted with cheers that our Phyllis had the audacity to lay such a sassy entree before our well-groomed palates. What a cheeky servant she was.
It was left to our housemaid to return the granite-style counters and the simulated Italian tile linoleum to a spotless shine. Her name, coincidentally, was also Phyllis.
Of course, what would our summers have been without our events coordinator. One day after an impromptu donnybrook erupted in the south lawn he proved to be a pretty good cut man. His name was also Phyllis.
My brothers and I spent much of our free time engaged in the Gentlemen's Sport. And Phyllis could, albeit grudgingly, always be counted on to referee a bout.
Phyllis taught us the art of making our own sporting equipment from common household items — a tightly wound wad of duct tape became our baseball; a broken broom handle was fashioned into a javelin.
Phyllis, Phyllis and Phyllis kept us well groomed, well fed and occupied. But our minds were nurtured, not in one of the parochial schools that dotted the nearby countryside, but in a religious academy maintained by the local dioceses. My parents decided it was best for us to experience how the other half lived They also wanted us to dress the part, which explains the frequent deliveries of hand-me-downs from our less fortunate neighbors.
Aside from the lessons on mathematics, language arts and the infallibility of the Church, we also learned firsthand the injustice of corporal punishment.
And in the evenings, our home tutor would drill us on our arithmetic tables and phonics lessons. I can't remember what her name was.
Thanks to school and the careful watch of the Phyllises, my dear mother had time to concentrate on her work with the less fortunate. She generously offered her services for a nominal fee to a local grocer who desperately needed help coordinating transactions with his customers.
At the same time she sought to expand her intellect at one of the most prestigious centers for higher learning in our community. She eventually earned a degree in the altruistic field of psychiatric healthcare and, with characteristic humility, took the night shift at the sanitarium.
I often wonder what she would have done if our faithful staff of servants weren't around. Would she be the fine upstanding successful career woman she is today? And one other detail still perplexes me: Why didn't we get more production out of the lawn boy Chuck?
Mike Wuebben has written several non-published works, including angry e-mails to former girlfriends and at least three book reports on the Judy Blume classic, "Tales of a Fourth-Grade Nothing." Prior to that, he couldn't read or write.
If you really want to talk, send Mike an e-mail. If it's urgent, buy an industrial-size spotlight with a W stencil and shine it into the night sky. Mike looks up regularly to check his messages.