I was about 10 years old eating a piece of pie – I think it was cherry pie – at my grandparent’s house. Maybe it was Memorial Day and the Cubs were on TV in the other room while I devoured bite after bite. The other grand-kids were gathered around the kitchen table and my grandpa, Val Mehler, was next to me, finishing his own slice. As we neared the end of our desserts, he leaned over and with his hallmark chuckle he asked conspiratorially, “What do you think … Tastes like more?”
Grandpa Mehler passed away more than 25 years ago in 1993. Yet this is one memory that sticks like pitch in my mind. No memory trigger required; this one is always at the ready. In fact, this memory is its own trigger. “Tastes like more” conjures images in my mind of the makeshift ball field Grandpa created for us in the yard beside his house, where the infield and the outfield were separated by a 3-foot tall row of hedges. The 12-inch softball he kept was so mushed it was more like a giant hacky-sack. Then there are the hundreds of bicycle repairs he made in his garage with homemade wrenches and a small steel vise. (I was lucky enough to inherit these tools and I still use them in my own garage today).
Grandpa had 10 grandchildren. I’ll bet if I asked my siblings or cousins, they’ll have more memories of Grandpa’s personality, deeds and phrases. Many of these, I’ll bet, are being passed along to our collective universe of friends and family through our behaviors and language. Maybe it’s mostly invisible and maybe Grandpa won’t get the credit. In fact, maybe Grandpa didn’t even invent “tastes like more”; perhaps he picked that up from his grandfather. Isn’t that how culture manifests? The things that serve us well (like family recipes) and maybe don’t serve as well (think: from where do we inherit our psychological baggage) are handed down from generation to generation, spun together then mingled between the people of the world, into the complex fabric of our collective experience.
These days I’m rapidly approaching status as the ‘old guy’ in the room. With my kids and their friends, or with my friends’ children, I occasionally find myself eating some nice dessert with people much younger than myself. Unsurprisingly, even though they will never understand the reference, and especially if it’s a slice of pie, as we get close the end I have to ask the question with a smile and wink, “What do you think kiddo, does is taste like more?”