When I was growing up, picnics were the thing.
My parents were pros. Wax paper-wrapped bologna sandwiches, bananas and Seven-Up for lunch. Slices of ham, corn on the cob and fried potatoes for dinner.
Perhaps brownies for dessert.
A portable cooktop figured prominently, as did a plastic floral tablecloth, a wicker basket and a thermos that contained the parents’ pre-supper martinis.
It was all so very civilized.
It happened every weekend. There was a favourite picnic table at a park in the city, and a favourite log at the beach.
We could have eaten on the deck at home, but the food tasted better when it was eaten in view of the water.
My mother would wear a summer shift and perhaps a kerchief over her perm. My father would haul out the movie camera and film the sisters and I waving in his face.
If the sky turned grey and the raindrops fell, we had a Plan B. The Hudson’s Bay blanket would be hauled out and we’d continue the picnic inside the Chevy Impala.
As I say, picnics were the thing.
The husband, however, was not raised in picnic culture. I don’t know if his parents made company with a wicker basket or whether they even enjoyed martinis. His father worked shifts and was often at work — or asleep — at suppertime.
I’ve made it a mission to change that.
We don’t eat bologna sandwiches, we don’t drink Seven-Up and we don’t even own wax paper, but we do package up tuna salad or fried chicken and make for a log at this time of year.
I’ve taught him what picnic tables are for — not places to rest when you’re out on your bike, but al fresco dining tables where you spread out the goods and enjoy a repast.
“C’mon,” I said the other day. “Let’s go to the beach.”
“Maybe we should wait until after lunch?” he wondered.
“No,” I said. “We’re going to the beach for lunch.”
“Oh,” he said. “Of course.”
There would be no fish and chips from the concession.
There would, however, be Greek salad, slices of roast beef and pieces of watermelon.
This, it seems to me, is what summer is for, especially when you have a ga-zillion perfect dining spots outside your door.
The husband is quickly coming around, and learning what I’ve known forever. The basket is not a superfluous thing. It’s essential at this time of year.