To be honest, I am struggling to do really anything productive as the end of the school year draws near. Thoughts of evening Brewer games, country concerts, homework-free weekends at the lake, campfires, and scorching summer sunshine are constantly interfering with my efforts to complete my Environmental Physics LearnSmarts or finish my hundred-plus page reading assignments.
Now, there are many things I associate with summertime (as made clear by my list above), but one in particular takes the cake in the category of uniqueness. I’ll give you a clue because you’ll never guess it otherwise. It’s a kitchen appliance. Not your ordinary stove or refrigerator or dishwasher, however. A specially crafted vat of goodness that uses super powders and hot oil to produce tremendously tantalizing, Southern inspired eats. A few years back, my Aunt Tootie, God bless her soul, invested in a deep fryer that revolutionized the way my mom’s side of my family does family parties.
We held the inaugural Wing Fest that summer. Then, we had a Wing Fest Redo. Then the Redo-do, the Redo-do-do, etcetera, etcetera until it became both obnoxious and virtually impossible to keep track. Now let me explain Wing Fest. It basically involves the extended family, country music, Bud Lights for those who are of age, a televised sporting event, and a slightly excessive number of my aunt’s fried chicken wings, coated in a Cajun inspired Louisiana red sauce and sprinkled with a fine blend of secret spices. Sometimes we have watermelon, sometimes pasta salad, sometimes veggies, always lots of laughs.
These evenings became such a big hit that they no longer were restricted to the three measly months that make up our Wisconsin summers. They became that one precious piece of summer that we were able to replicate even in the freezing temperatures of a Midwestern January. Fellowship, my aunt calls it, suddenly became a word we immediately associated with that beautiful deep fryer. Wing Fests evolved into a glorious excuse to see each other. Forgive the lousy attempt at word play, but I’d definitely argue that it’s not the chicken wings for which we are hungry. No, sir. Familial companionship and camaraderie slowly became commonplace as I grew to appreciate and enjoy my extended family more than I ever had, and I realized the real hunger was a niggling desire to grow closer to those whom I love.
In retrospect, I’ve learned that sometimes something as absurd and trivial as a Cuisinart deep fryer can strengthen our bonds with others. We gotta find ourselves a common ground and work from there to establish relationships. Apply this to your teaching methods, your courses, your professional experiences, your daily lives. For my family, our common ground is our universal love of sauced and seasoned fried chicken, as silly as it may sound to an outsider.
As chaotic as my school life can get with assignments and field experiences and as stressful as this professional development process can be here at MU, there is one truth that will never fade: happiness can really be as simple as a chicken wing. So go out and find yourself a metaphoric chicken wing, kids—or a real one if you are lucky enough to be invited to one of our shindigs.