“Are we ready to go?” I asked, looking around for the picnic lunch Steve had promised to bring. Although there was no lunch, Steve answered affirmatively and so we mounted our bicycles and began an afternoon that was soon to become a classic in our personal Hall of Fame.
April 6 in Mesa, Arizona usually means eighty-degree weather and a perfect day for a picnic. This April 6 was no exception. It was a day for being outside, lying in the grass, counting clouds, and soaking up the sun.
We peddled our way to Whittier Grade School, where we dismounted from our bicycles and climbed into the swings. The days of baseball caps, pigtails, and skinned knees didn’t seem so long ago as we soared high into the air. We shared experiences from our earlier years and each “I remember when. . . ” prompted another memory.
“Did you ever have a peanut butter-honey-and-banana sandwich?” Steve asked.
“Do people actually put all three ingredients together—in one sandwich?”
“Of course. I grew up on peanut butter-honey-and-banana sandwiches—and they were good, too.”
“Well, it’s a delicacy I’ve yet to taste.”
“Amy, you don’t know what you’ve missed. Next time you come over I will make you a peanut butter-honey-and banana sandwich. ”
I agreed, wondering what was in store for me.
Tiring of the swings, we moved on to the monkey bars. Reaching the top was not the formidable challenge it used to be and we easily scaled the apparatus. Steve remarked, “I’m hungry. I probably shouldn’t have left our dinner in the car.”
The mystery of what happened to our lunch was resolved and I planned on eating when we got home.
From our post on the monkey bars, we spied some small children playing in front of their house and we crossed the street to talk to them.
“You know they may not talk to strangers,” I cautioned.
“Maybe we better ask their parents if it’s all right to talk to them.”
“What a strange thing to do,” I thought, but Steve was not an ordinary guy and he didn’t do things in the ordinary way. Steve knocked on the door and a middle-aged woman appeared.
“Ma’am, is this the cafeteria?” Steve asked.
“What?” she asked, saying exactly what I was thinking.
“Well, that’s the school across the street and I thought that perhaps sometimes, if the kids were hungry, they might come over and you’d give them something to eat.”
The woman stammered for a few seconds, then finally said, “Well, yes, I guess sometimes they do come over and I give them a little something.” It was apparent she was astonished, but no more than I.
“Well,” Steve continued, we’d like two peanut butter-honey-and-banana sandwiches.”
“Are you serious!” she asked unbelievingly.
“Of course we’re serious,” Steve said with great gravity.
“What is with this guy?” I thought.
“You’re really serious?” she questioned.
“Of course. We were over at Whittier School and we started to get hungry and we thought perhaps you could give us some sandwiches. ”
“Peanut butter-honey-and-banana sandwiches, no less,” said the lady.
“They’re a delicacy,” Steve assured her.
“Would you like some egg salad to go with them?” “Sounds delicious,” Steve said.
“Some cookies and milk would be nice also,” I added, catching the spirit of the jest.
“Now, you’re sure this is for real?” she asked again.
“All right, Steve,” I thought, “a joke’s a joke. Now tell her why we really came. Tell her we just came to ask if we could play with her kids for a while.”
Steve simply said, “Yes, it’s for real.”
I was thoroughly flummoxed. It was not unlike Steve to kid for a little while, even with total strangers, but to carry it on this far was something new. The lady disappeared into her kitchen.
“Steve, she thinks we’re serious. She’s back there making us a picnic!”
“She couldn’t be,” Steve said. “No one would do that for a couple of strangers.”
“Steve, she’s back there making us lunch,” I repeated.
“Amy, she couldn’t think I was serious, could she?”
“Steve, she’s back there making us lunch,” I repeated for the third time. “Can’t you hear her?” At that moment the sound of rattling dishes confirmed my point.
“Well, we better go then. Hurry before it’s too late.”
“Steve, we can’t leave now. She is probably almost finished.”
“Well, what are we going to do?
Having no suitable answer, I was left speechless. At that moment the lady reappear-
ed—with a paper sack. I stammered some sort of thank you and walked away. I kept mumbling, “I don’t believe it!”
“You know what we need now, don’t you?” questioned Steve.
“What?” I answered, almost afraid to ask.
“A blanket,” Steve said, as he headed to the next house.
“No! We can’t.” I dug in my heels, but Steve dragged me to the door of the adjacent house. “Steve, the next people may not be as nice as the lady.”
Despite my protest, Steve knocked and a gruff-looking man opened the door. “Sir, do you happen to have a blanket we could use for a picnic?” Steve asked.
The man grunted, but to my amazement he handed us a blanket sitting on a table near the door.
We crossed the street and spread out the blanket and opened our lunch. Not only were there two peanut butter-honey-and-banana sandwiches, but also a tuna sandwich, egg salad with Thousand Island dressing that looked similar to Steve’s mother’s distinctive dressing, carrot sticks, two apples, 2 cans of 7-up, and the cookies and milk I had requested.
”It’s a banquet,” I said in disbelief, “and all we wanted was to play with her kids.”
We started eating, but I hardly tasted a thing. My mind kept churning over this most unique lunch and the odd series of events that procured it. Between bites, I uttered statements like: “Steve, how are we ever going to thank them?” “Why would they trust us? They don’t even know us!” and “I don’t get it.”
Eventually, we packed up our refuge, folded up the blanket, and again mounted our bicycles. Once again, I was bewildered when Steve began riding in the opposite direction of our benefactors’ houses.
“Steve, we have to take the blanket back to the man.”
“I know,” was Steve’s simple response.
“Steve, we have to take the blanket back to its owner,” I repeated more earnestly.
“I know, Amy. I am,” he said, still riding in the same direction.
“Steve,” I demanded, “we have to give the blanket to its rightful owner.”
At this point Steve turned his bike around and rode back to where I was.
“Amy, whose dressing was that on the salad?”
Immediately, everything became clear. All the pieces fit together. Not only did the Thousand Island dressing look and taste like Steve’s mother’s, it was Steve’s mother’s! With great delight, Steve explained he had recruited the aid of two strangers to make our picnic a truly memorable experience.
I burst out laughing, realizing that life with Steve Hardison was never going to be routine or predictable. It would be an extraordinary adventure.