That Ugly Old Lid

Image: Doris Mitchell called this “that ugly old lid”.

Doris Mitchell called this “that ugly old lid”. (Karen Mathiowetz)

I am one of the luckiest people in the world. No, strike that. I am blessed. I am blessed to have been born into the family I have. I also have been blessed with the greatest friends.

My friends are an array of people from all walks of life, all ages, all races and all religions. I like the diversity in all of us. I am closer to some than to others. Doris Mitchell was one of the close ones. We had a lot of the same interests and truly enjoyed each others company. She was a rare diamond, yep sometimes a diamond in the rough, but she was beautiful. I always knew what she was thinking because she told you very loudly what she was thinking.

When Doris passed away a short time ago, I was thankful she was with Jesus in heaven. I was happy for her but darn sad for me.

We used to sit on her porch with a glass of decaf peach tea or a virgin bloody Caeser. She always insisted on a stalk of celery in the Caesar. We would talk about everything from our families to the town folk. We both grew up “poor as church mice” she would say and that helped us understand each others upbringing.

No matter what I asked Doris to do or donate she never said no. She also did not mind asking me to do or help. That is what friends do.

One of the funniest memories I have is the morning I came in the back door of the Uptown with a lid in my hand. Doris looked at the lid and said, “What the (BLEEP) is that ugly old thing?”

“Hey, don’t talk that way about my favorite lid,” I replied.

“Well what are you planning on doing with that ugly old thing?”

“Well, I thought I would make us both some Minnesota hash browns.”

“What are Minnesota hash browns?” she asked. I told her I had learned to make them when we lived in Minnesota and it took a dome lid to make them right. “I hope nobody sees that ugly old thing in my kitchen,” she added. I looked around at some of her pans and wondered why she was worried about my lid.

She shrugged and continued rolling out hamburger balls for the burgers that day. I peeled two potatoes, washed them and grated them. All the time we were talking while we both worked. Then I rinsed the potatoes, dried them off and got them ready to hit the grill. I sprayed the grill with non-stick spray then put a little margarine on. I dropped the shreds on the margarine, put a little margarine on top and sprinkled them with season salt. Then I placed my lid over the potatoes.

“I really wish you would not put that ugly old thing on those potatoes if you expect me to eat them,” she said. I ignored her and waited to turn the hash browns.

Just at the right time, I removed the lid and flipped the potatoes. When Doris looked at the hash browns, she began to smile. “Those look and smell so good,” she said. “I can’t get mine to brown that pretty.”

“Well, that ugly old lid is not so ugly any more huh?”

We both began to laugh. When the hash browns were done, we shared them. They were delicious. In the years that followed, until she closed the Uptown Café, we shared many breakfast of hash browns and many conversations. I made hash browns for her grandchildren when they were there. That ugly old lid was stored in a place of honor at the Uptown until I brought it home on the last day the café was open.

I learned a valuable lesson with that ugly old lid. It reminds me every time I make hash browns of the wonderful times I had with Doris. Many mornings I cry as I grate the potatoes wishing she was still here. It also taught us both that you cannot judge anything or anyone by they way they look. That ugly old lid is one of the most beautiful things I have ever owned or shared with a friend that I loved with all my heart.

I miss Doris every day, some days more than others. But the memories of times we shared will last me a lifetime. And if I ever do start to forget about her, that ugly old lid is here to remind me. The end for now.