19 January 2012


In honor of National Popcorn Day (that's right, comrades, this very day!), I share part of a piece I wrote several years ago on this very blog, but which still rings true and right as I re-read my younger self's narrative. What a phenomenon. But this ends up being more in honor of my Grandpa Norberg. He was the quietly confident and well-esteemed popper of the corn in our family. To this day, I can still see his tall, broad, slightly bent form hovering at the dimly lit stovetop, twirling that bright red knob with such patience, such perfect anticipation, such joy at having his family near him. So friends, have some popcorn today, and if you can, hug your grandpa.

On Sunday nights, as the news broadcast wound down and the Disney Sunday Night Movie came on, he would get out the black stovetop popcorn maker and the small yellow enamelware butter warmer with the extra long handle. As soon as the kernels hit the metal measuring cup with a loud clatter (1/3 cup fit perfectly in the pan and just barely popped the lid off as it finished), we all knew what would soon be on the table and tried to wait patiently. His giant hand steadily spun the bright red handle around and around, and the cheerful pop!pop!pop!... pop!......pop! quickened until the lid of the pot began to rise and stray kernels tumbled onto the countertop.

Alongside this massive, perpetually full bowl of white popcorn with fresh butter and plenty of salt, root beer was inevitably set out. IBC brand only, in the glass bottles. Any sort of impostor, not even A&W, was permitted. Generic was unthinkable. If we were really fortunate, ice cream landed on the table somewhere in the evening's spread for making floats. For us cousins, this was understandably a magical and giddy weekly tradition. Even still today, for me, popcorn and root beer makes everything feel right as rain.

In the low, golden light of the small kitchen, as fingernails scraped the bottoms of brown and white melmac bowls and ice cracked in glasses, rich laughter echoed in their small home as Uncle Willard would mischievously plop a toy car in the popcorn bowl and some unsuspecting soul would fish it out. The laughter continued throughout the evening and traveled further still, out through the windows that were open to the dusky purply sky, now filled with stars and fireflies. The warm, grass-scented summer air blew through the room, bringing with it the moths that swirled and bumped around the ceiling light. We kids licked the salt off of our fingers, slurped the last of the creamy root beer, and settled happily back into our spots in front of the television, our little bodies' shapes now flattening the same shag carpet. Eventually the bowls and glasses were pushed to the side as the adults played Dominoes or Rummikub around the kitchen table. I always snuck in and, from the safe place behind mom's shoulder, watched grandpa's extra-large hands scoot and nudge the game pieces with wonder, dazed by the white dots on the black. What could the point of this game possibly be, other than making a small model of a very complicated road system? I truly marvelled and just didn't know, but it was still fascinating as they seemed to be part of a secret club, holding numeric mysteries and gaming knowledge within their smart heads, a status to which I could only hope to aspire, just someday.