Post the (US) holiday food coma (for those so fortunate. it’s a pity people don’t realize two-thirds of what they consume could go to the orphan, the widow, the hungry, the weak, the infirmed…
…but this isn’t the time for preaching…) it’s good to remember the joy we had with good friends gathered around the table.
In my case, that was at the Campbell’s in Middleton, Mass. My family would gather there every year for good food and great stories, a game of Chinese Checkers or Scrabble, perhaps Mrs. Stockton would play the piano and play for us.
I didn’t know at the time that Al Campbell and my dad met working in Boston and became friends. It never seemed odd to me that this New Brunswick, Canadian immigrant and my first-generation Italian-American father would hit it off.
Years later Al, who was heavy for as long as I knew him, lost an amazing amount of weight. I didn’t know if it was health or something else. Blanche, his wife, was also a large woman and lost some but not all of her weight.
Mrs. Stockton, Al’s mother, once confided that Al and Blanche would never have children because they were cousins.
My mother understood. I, somewhere between five and nine years old at the time, didn’t.
One day Blanche called us to let us know Al had left her for some woman in northern Maine. How he met her, I don’t know.
Blanche received a letter (handwritten. ah, those were the days) from Al asking her to box up some of his things and to leave them somewhere he could get them.
She did. Being Blanche, she also included an apple pie. Al loved apple pie.
Years later she received another letter from Al telling her how much he treasured that pie. It was one of the kindest things anyone’d done for him in years, he wrote.
My mother made sure we – especially my father – knew the woman Al “shacked up with” beat him regularly, as did her two sons, and that he had to eat that pie in the outhouse because the woman, if she’d known he got it, would’ve taken it from him and beat him all the more.
My mother made sure my father knew this because (as I found out much later) what brought Al and my father together wasn’t work, it was whoring.
Al, according to mom, even hit on her once. While she was pregnant, too! Oh my!
Such are family stories.
Blanche and Mrs. Stockton were good Christian women. Years later I studied biblical matters and they invited me over for dinner. I hadn’t seen them in years.
They were still Blanche and Mrs. Stockton, still knew how to cook, still gracious and kind people.
I would like to say I stayed in touch with them, but I didn’t. My path took me elsewhere.
I hope their Christian belief brought them peace.
And meanwhile, the family dines with friends.