Martha's Meatloaf

I was going through Mom's recipes the other day when I came across Martha's Marvelous Meatloaf. Oh the memories.

Martha was my boyfriend, Chuck's Mom. She was a pleasant roundish woman with unruly hair characteristic of so many 40-something Moms. (Ouch, am I going to get in trouble for that?) I started dating Chuck shortly after 4-H camp the summer after 8th grade. This was the summer after being in the Young Miss Nebraska pageant but before the summer I got ringworm from my cat Kellico (formerly John Wayne when its parts were a sweet mystery). If you have ever been in camp as a young person you will remember the hushed flutter of romance that is also known as a "Camp Relationship". We used air quotes when talking about these relationships to make sure others knew we knew they weren't necessarily the real thing. They were more like sunglasses you got to try on for awhile. They make you look cute and feel genuinely sophisticated. But like any good pair of sunglasses, they never last. You lose them, you break them, you lend them out and never get them back (it's not a perfect metaphor.) (Although if it is, I'm very sorry. Next time don't be so creepy.)

Chuck was an energetically sad person. I met him in a room of people watching The Simpsons. There was a dance going on in the next room, and I had taken a little breather. His head was down and he was expressively communicating his sadness non-verbally. He sighed a great deal, he frowned, he looked up with lonely eyes. And I was hooked, line and sinker. Ever the youngest child, I took it upon myself to cheer him up. I was perky, funny, I made meaningful eye contact. My friend Denise and I called this type of attraction the “But he needs me!” trap. We danced together on the last dance. I believe the song was the GooGoo Dolls “Iris”. The lyrics--And I don’t want the world to see me, cuz I don’t think that they’d understand. When everything’s made to be broken, I just want you to know who I am--I think especially rang true for us. Lord knows why. I think the only lyrics for teenagers that should be allowed are “You’re body’s changing, life is changing–it’s going to be a little weird for while. Just try to hold your head up and not be an dumb boob.” It doesn’t rhyme as well but I think this is a good life lesson, too.

We left the dance that night smitten. He wrote me a long letter explaining that he was chronically depressed and struggled with suicidal thoughts. I think, actually, his father might have committed suicide. But that night, he didn’t think of killing himself–he only thought of me. It was scary and cheesy but it was enough to get our camp relationship up and running.

I can’t remember very much after that. I think we must of held hands, did we smooch? God I hope so. After camp we wrote each other long, lovesick letters. Then one weekend he up and decided to come visit me. I can’t remember how it all worked out but he and his mom drove together for many hours and stayed in a hotel in Butte, NE. It was so great to see him. But little by little, he drove me nuts. I can’t quite place it, exactly, but I just remember he wasn’t funny. We went over to my aunt’s house to can beans or freeze corn or something. Aunt Coke was immediately unimpressed by how often Chuck’s arm was around my waist. We weren’t in camp anymore. There is a picture of us from that weekend, he has his arm around me and I’m holding a flyswatter.

One lunch I made meatloaf for everyone. I remember being in a hurry and just sort of throwing a bunch of stuff in the bowl, thinking I would just make it simple. During dinner, Martha, who had been nicely peripheral during this time, commented that the meatloaf was boring. In the stunned silence that followed she explained that her meatloaf used to be boring but now she had the perfect recipe. And she would be more that happy to give it to me. If only I would accept the meatloaf into my heart. I was mortified. I wasn’t a great cook at 15 but I certainly wasn’t as bad as some people. She said she loved my cooking just the way it was, but that she loved it too much to let it stay that way. I told her I was interested but I just wasn’t sure I was ready for the next step. Plus, I whispered, my family likes the meatloaf. She said it would be waiting for me when I was ready.

Later that night, in the basement, Chuck said he had something for me. Something that he had never given anyone else. He put some Blues Traveler on, and sat down next to me. He carefully put my hand into his, closed his eyes, tilted his head just so, and started singing with the music, adding my name.

It took me a minute to realize his singing along to the cd was the gift. I pushed pause. “Chuck, I don’t think this is going to work.” We had a long talk where he nodded and said things like “this always happens to me” and I said things like “we’re growing apart.” Besides us both feeling a little sorry for ourselves it was an amicable breakup. One of my best, in all honesty. He gave me a long hug and then asked if he could at least finish his song.

A couple weeks later, I got another email from Chuck. It was his mom’s meatloaf recipe. And it really did change my life.

PS When I told Mom this story she said, You were in 4-H?
PSS A special thanks to Deanna for telling me to blog again. One of my blogs got deleted (stupid blogger) and I started this one and just hadn’t finshed it. I want to be a better blogger. Let go and let blog.


  1. I LOVE that meatloaf is a metaphor for Jesus in this post. I'm not sure that was intentional, but I bet it was with the whole "accepting the meatloaf recipe into your heart" bit. :-)

    Also, I vaguely remember Chuck, but you CERTAINLY never told me all the details before about your relationship with him....such as the part where he gave you the gift of song. Holy moly batsh*t crazy. I probably shouldn't say that about someone who was clinically depressed.....

    And you should share your meatloaf recipe with me. I'm always on the look out for a good meatloaf recipe.

  2. I laughed several times but especially at mom's response. :)

  3. Also, I check your blog almost every day. If only I had known I just needed to say something. Thanks from me too Deanna.

  4. Yeah, I have to say the funniest part for me was your mom's response too LOL! Love it!


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