I knew it was a ringtumdiddy day as soon as I got on the doorstep home from school. Something about the combination of cheese, tomato soup, onions, and whatever else he threw in there was powerful enough to move straight through my grandparents' thick, wooden front door and punch me in the nose.
I hated that smell, which is unbelieveable now, given my love for both of those foods separately and, I'd guess, in combination, if I tried it.
"It's Ringtumdiddy Day. Gross!" I'd say to my grandmother, making dramatic gagging motions, as she told me to shush, maybe I could learn to like it.
Inside, he stood at the stove in their tiny, galley kitchen, smaller than any I've had in any apartment, stirring, stirring, stirring.
He hummed always, at all times, but especially when he cooked, and he had our genetic quirk of word repetition.
"Hmmm...ringtumdiddy. HMMMM HMMMM HMMMM."
"You want some, Laurie Anne? You want some ringtumdiddy?"
"NO WAY GROSS NO WAY."
"Alrighty. Fine. Fine. More for me. Moooorrrrreeee ringtumdiddy for me."
At holiday celebrations now, my family unravels stories we've retold hundreds of times about ourselves and what we've seen together like they're new, bringing my grandparents into the room as surely as if they were sitting there, because they can't be anywhere else when we are all together. We time travel to that tiny kitchen as we walk the rooms of that duplex. We talk about the bacon my grandmother cooked for breakfast, leaving it on a paper towel on the back of the stove for all-day grabby hands. We talk about cinnamon-sugar bread and tuna fish and hardboiled eggs on Friday. We talk about his chocolate chip cookies and blame our ovens for why we can never replicate them, no matter how much we try to decipher the hidden lines on the back of that yellow and black bag of chocolate chips.
Inevitably, one of my uncles will say,
"Ringtumdiddy. Daddy loved that godawful stuff. You'd know what you were in for as soon as you hit the porch after school."
I knew what they knew, and so did my mom and my aunts, my sister, and my older cousins. The younger kids who cruelly didn't get a chance to know him, meanwhile, repeat their lines, no rehearsal necessary.
"RINGTUMDIDDY, what's THAT? Did you have to eat that, Dad?"
And we tell them it was something Granddaddy made, and poured over toast. We note that it came in handy during Lent. We may mention the silver double boiler, and how we don't know where the recipe came from, and we should ask one of his surviving siblings if it was something that stretched for the 18 kids in their family, or it was just something he picked up randomly along the way.
And I'll say to them the same thing, always, the thing I believe besides that he likely did enjoy the taste of it or he wouldn't have made it so many times throughout his life. I'll say what I believe after I've searched for it on the internet and found it spelled differently, and with different things thrown in, making it not what it was in our house, not the same smell of cheese and tomato soup, and maybe some onion, that came through that solid wooden front door like a memory it would be someday.
I say, "I think he really just liked to say the word."