...and about 9 of her fellow centenarians. A coworker J and I signed up to do Meals on Wheels in one of our town's regions. I have fond memories of MOW. My mom and I used to take meals around when I was little. I remember hanging out in the back of the wood-paneled station wagon with a laundry basket of warm meals just waiting to be delivered. These days, the system is a little better (good directions, food in much safer temperature-controlled contraptions), but the feeling is the same. Unless you ask my mom, who shared her fond memory of the volunteer experience we experienced together, "They just loved seeing a baby, but it took me a lot longer when I had you. A lot."
I get what mom means now though. J and I showed up, got our list of 9 stops (10 people. One house was a couple. Cute!). We grabbed our two coolers and surveyed the menu: warm dish sealed tightly in tin foil, chilled green bean salad, wheat bread, butter, strawberry cake, milk, and cranberry juice. Each house got one of each, and we were instructed not to give extra milks, and should the milk be flavored (chocolate, strawberry...) we were to use our best judgement as to which diner got what flavor.
Out into the 104 degree heat we roamed, mapping our way from Jurstine Cooper's house to the couple's home, whose name I only remember as rhyming with "bolognia." It sounded Italian.
We made our rounds, talking to some who wanted, and being shooed off the front porch of those wishing only to watch their "stories." There were little old men and women, which was somehow surprising, but the whole hour and a half was a true pleasure. Until we got back to the Senior Center, where we were to drop off the coolers.
The Bolognias weren't home (out cruising in their white caddy, said the maintenance man, which made us wonder how exactly you qualify for these meals in the first place. Another post.), so we had two extra meals. The coordinator told us to chuck them, which (with skyrocketing food prices) baffled us. So we did what any two charity volunteers near starvation would do: we scoped them out.
We'd smelled these meals for roughly the past ninety minutes and had more than once tried to discern their contents. They smelled like pasta. Maybe baked pasta, with chicken. Or lasagna. For the bolognias. We pried the tin tops off the sectioned plates to find pale, lifeless chicken parts, with corn kernels and broth. We wordlessly extended our shared apology to Jurstine and the bolognias (maybe they were driving from the meal), and tossed the leftover plates, but not before pocketing the strawberry cake which, for the record, turned out to be a huge mistake.
If you can, volunteer with your local MOW. It's a fun way to spend a lunch hour, especially when they're strapped for volunteers (damn gas prices). Just don't sample the food.