Every summer, my oldest sister Terri holds a family gathering at her lake home on Mille Lacs Lake. All six of us sisters and our families make the trek north for this annual celebration. We spend the day swimming, sunbathing, canoeing, boating, fishing, outdoor games, and it culminates in the entire family gathering for a picnic meal at suppertime.
When our children were toddlers, we’d set up a kiddie pool so they could “go swimming,” while we sisters sat at the picnic table chatting when our husbands were out on the lake fishing. The little ones were happy in the pool, our hubbies were enjoying themselves out on the lake, and we sisters loved catching up.
One year, the men came back to shore around suppertime and we began to get the food ready. I took my kids out of the pool, dressed them, and began helping my sisters. I asked one of my older nephews if he’d watch the little ones. Soon we called everyone for supper. I observed my three-year-old daughter Stephanie standing by the kiddie pool.
“Stephanie. Come here and sit down.”
It was then that I noticed she had something in her chubby little fingers. Not only that, but she was also chewing on something.
“Stephanie.” I walked closer to her.
She looked up at me and gave me an angelic smile, happily chewing all the while.
“Honey, what are you eating?”
She just stared at me, vigorously chewing, while vehemently shaking her head “No.” Then she turned and ran away from me. I chased after her and finally caught her. I took her little hand, and had to pry her fingers open because she didn’t want to let go of her prize. At first I couldn’t really tell what it was she was holding. Then, upon closer inspection, I could hardly believe my eyes! She had just a part of a minnow in her hand! I had a dreadful feeling that I now knew exactly what she was chewing on!
“Stephanie, spit it out!” But she would not obey my commands, no matter how many times I told her.
Finally, I had to coax her little mouth open, and my fears were realized. She was chewing on the minnow’s head! I managed to pull it out of her mouth, although she wasn’t happy about it and she screamed the entire time.
Upon questioning one of my brothers-in-law, who stood there and laughed all the while, he told me that my brother-in-law Bill had taken the leftover minnows from the fishing trip and dumped them into the kiddie pool.
Of course, I started making a commotion because it just seemed so gross and irresponsible! I was indignant. I could not believe that my baby had been eating the head of a live minnow!
Bill was in the back yard, and when he heard all the ruckus, he came running into the front yard to see what was happening.
“What the heck is going on? Did somebody die or something?” he yelled.
I looked at him, narrowed my eyes, pointed my finger at him, and asked accusingly, “Did you put all those live minnows into the kiddie pool?”
“Well, yes, Cynthia, I did!” He always called me “Cynthia” just to tease me.
“Well, William,” I said, (in an effort to get back at him) “Your goddaughter, Stephanie, just bit the head off one of those minnows and was chewing on it!” I said in utter disgust.
He stared at me, blinked his eyes, grinned, and said, “Don’t worry, Cindy. It’s protein!”