Holy Mackerel

Like many representatives of his gender, my son is project-driven. Do not ask him to sit and have a conversation, unless it’s about the melting point of copper or where to find 25 pounds of modeling clay. Our house is littered with the detritus of ongoing or abandoned experiments (it’s hard to tell the difference): wooden boards sprouting odd arrangements of nails and wires; pennies soaking in mysterious solutions on the counter; a cup of birch leaves in the freezer; 24 pounds of leftover clay hardening in the basement. We have a mantle full of old medicine bottles and containers, which he dug up with a metal detector in the dregs of an ancient trash heap in the woods. And if ever I’m missing a wooden spoon or mixing bowl, chances are it’s buried in mud and tin foil in the backyard, for reasons only he could explain.

To my credit, if I may say, I am fairly tolerant of all this messy experimentation, perhaps because it is familiar. My father–an engineer–was an inveterate household putterer and handyman, whose forays into plumbing regularly ended with swearing, flooded floors and expensive weekend calls to the professionals. My husband, Mr. Seventy Percent, is famous for starting and partially completing all manner of unnecessary projects (see Yard Work is No Picnic). So when my son texted me from a fishing trip he was on last week with the news that I didn’t need to make dinner because he was hauling home 50 or 60 mackerel, these are some of the things I refrained from saying:

“Since when do you like fish?”
“There’s a reason you never see ‘mackerel’ on a restaurant menu!”
“Sounds like a stinky, bloody mess to me; don’t bother!”
“I’ll order the pizza just in case.”

He and his buddy came home, proud and disgusting, spread garbage bags on the picnic table my husband had actually succeeded in refinishing, got out a knife and, in a blaze of fish guts and excited chatter, hacked the Band-Aid sized filets right out of those little mackerel. Then the boys slathered the morsels in butter and herbs and fired up the grill. They took exactly two bites apiece before asking for the leftover pizza. Trying to be a good sport, I put a piece of fish on my plate and dug in. It was oily, mealy and tasteless, but I choked it down anyway. The dogs, however, found the mackerel delicious, and it’s comforting to know that if we ever run out of dog food, we’ve still got 25 pounds of dead fish sitting in the basement freezer.

About Susan H. Greenberg

Susan H. Greenberg spent 22 years as a journalist for Newsweek Magazine. She now works as a writer, editor, teacher, and parent of three children, with whom she strives always to maintain a varnish-free relationship.
This entry was posted in Boys will be boys, Family life, Kids, Parenting and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Holy Mackerel

  1. Sue, you continue to capture the best of childhood, motherhood and life with your blog – very fun to read and they always make me think of you and yours.


  2. Bobbie says:

    I recognize that playhouse! Did it get moved up to Mass too? A beautiful example of a finished project by Bill.

  3. Annie Gilbert says:

    Gee, Sue, a quick search of epicurious reveals all SORTS of tasty mackerel recipes. Why not whip up “Minted Mackerel and Mushroom Escabeche” tonight?? Apparently it goes great with Pinot Noir.

  4. civicme says:

    How’s your garden doing??? Have those Hunter-Gatherer-Experimenters chop up those frozen mackerel and feed the gardens/trees by digging them into soil a few inches down. Best Fertilizer going!
    Of course it is a terrible plan if you have a lot of cats or wildlife roaming around….but I am pretty sure THAT story would make a great blog thread!
    Freed up freezer space…a lush garden…a fisherman’s value vindicated….huge points for being ‘A Green Family’…not to mention the family out of Mom’s hair for most of a day (think pajama day) …and great material for a blog piece…. There is great potential in them there mackerel!
    Thanks for the chuckles!!

  5. Maria Donovan says:

    I laugh every time I read one of your stories! Thank you!

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