Book Excerpt: The Fair

THE fair - Thank you, Mahopac Volunteer Fire Department

This is an excerpt from my memoir in progress. Happy 4th and happy summer!

“Round and round! Well love will find a way, just give it time!” blasted over the rides, the games, the roulette wheel and a thousand clipped conversations. We watched the train of cars woosh by, climb, circle, and pass by again. They always played Ratt on the Vortex. Ratt, Crue, Scorpions — anything hard and heavy. We waited on line, ears throbbing, just to hurtle around and around that circle, music and motion giving us chills and sending us back to do it all again. But that wasn’t the magic of the fair, just one of the perks. The real draw was that everyone went — everyone in town.

During the school year, we saw everyone every day, from junior high through high school. There were 383 kids in my graduating class – about the same for the other grades – but everybody still knew everybody. And everybody knew everybody’s business, at all times.

Summer separated us, though. Once school got out, we retreated to our respective lakes, confined to our neighborhoods, unless we were lucky enough to run into someone at 7-11 soliciting the over-21’s who’d help high school kids score beer.

We had two fairs – the Mahopac Falls Firemen’s Fair and the Mahopac Firemen’s Fair. The Falls fair came in June – usually during finals week. Everyone went anyway, our last farewell before a lonely summer. But the Mahopac Fair was THE fair. They held it in late July. By that time we were starved for gossip, and drama, and a glimpse of our one true love, who lived on another lake and didn’t even know our name.

We’d pass by the firehouse on the way to Caldor’s during the week, noting the activity and its progress.

The rides came folded on trucks, paint peeling, red and white light bulbs dark; waiting for the magic hour. The Ferris wheel, the Salt and Pepper Shaker, the Tilt-a-Whirl, all unfolded for us over several trips to Caldor’s or Shopwell. Sometimes they’d assemble a huge slide, in the back of the parking lot, tucked away, but we could see early in the week, when the rides were bowed in their metal frames. The slide took a few days for the carnies to finish. Every year, they’d put all of the rides in the same spots. We didn’t know how they remembered, but the fair always looked the same, unless some add-on ride like the slide surprised us.

The grill was just right of the front entrance – no accident – the smell of grilled peppers, onions and sausage lured kids and parents alike to check out the stand’s menu. The firemen themselves cooked the sausage and peppers, burgers and dogs. Their sign told us that every penny from food proceeds went directly to the fire department, as if we needed persuading. Sometimes 18-year-old seniors from school volunteered for the fire department. They got to look brave but they were the first to admit they did it for the beer. They told us that the firehouse had a soda machine that dispensed cold Budweisers and the older firemen looked the other way when they drank them. Lucky for us, we had our 7-Eleven connections.

Next to the grill was a tent with the car they’d raffle off. Adults would gather around and admire the shiny prize. We didn’t give a rat’s ass about the car. It was a boxy, adult car – better for Boca Raton than Mahopac. We said if we won it, we’d sell it and buy a nice Camaro or a Mustang.

Next to the fence separating the lot from the street were the game tents. Roulette for the adults, water-gun races, ring toss, milk jugs – they were all there. Once I won a goldfish and Mike, who I used to like in junior high, came up to me and said, “I’ll eat that for five bucks!”

“Eeew, no, I’m taking him home. His name’s Sparky.” Sparky was a floater the next day.

Then there were the rides. The Vortex, of course, the Tilt-a-Whirl, the Spider, the Round-Up, sometimes the Salt-and-Pepper-Shaker, and always the Ferris wheel. On the big slide, we’d climb up with a burlap sack (we never wondered where they got them) and we’d ride down on top of it.

Back behind the firehouse there were vendors with t-shirt decals and bandannas and a bunch of other stuff that appealed to our parents. That’s where they’d stroll, see and be seen. My parents never bought anything at the Fair. The vendors offered cheap household stuff. My mom wouldn’t buy anything without a name brand.

In direct contrast to school, where we dressed like miniature Manhattan models, high fashion at the fair had us in competing T-shirts, the more off-color, the better. We’d shop all year for the perfect fair shirt — not specifically, but we’d always keep an eye out for the most tasteless of T’s. A compliment on your shirt was a badge of honor, to be worn proudly through the night and ensuing weekend.

Sometimes the fair started Wednesday or Thursday, but those days were for little kids. Everyone who was anyone went Friday and Saturday night. You could ride the rides or shoot water at the clown’s mouth to blow up the balloon, try to knock down the silver milk jugs with a softball. You could eat. Firemen spend most of their time cooking for the guys in the firehouse so we knew their food was good. Beth’s family would go to the fair for dinner. Her mom couldn’t stop talking about the sausage and pepper sandwiches.

Our parents may have driven us to the fair but as soon as we got there, we split off and went separate ways. Sometimes we’d have them drop us off down the road, depending on how embarrassed we’d be to be seen with them. The adults went and got ice cream and took younger kids on rides but mostly they socialized with other parents they ran into.

We usually chauffeured one of my friends, so I wouldn’t have to walk into the fair alone. As soon as we got there, we’d take off for the ticket booth, get a long strip of tickets and head for the rides. On the way we’d cruise the game booths, check out the prizes, and note which denim-clad butts we could recognize from the back.

We’d get on line for the Vortex, chatting excitedly about who was here and who wasn’t. The blaring music ensured our privacy. Then we’d see a couple walk by – a new couple since the last day of school. Holding hands at the fair was a huge deal. It meant you were going out, no question. Going out was serious. You were committed. There was something called “seeing each other” at Mahopac, but it was more of a precursor to “going out.” You dated that one person, but seeing each other meant you weren’t quite serious. No one ever played the field at our school. That’s why it was such a big deal when a girl slept around. In Mahopac, a girl could date 50 guys in the course of her school career and sleep with all of them, without any repercussions. But if a girl slept with guys she wasn’t dating, even if there was only one, she was a slut.

In any case, the fair was THE social event of the season, and fair relationships sparked gossip, as well as envy, at least from me. I never had a fair relationship. The one time I had a boyfriend in high school, I went on a class trip to Spain during the Mahopac Fair. The other years, I focused all of my energy on finding out whether my latest crush would be there. Once I was there, Beth and I would walk around searching for those elusive crushes. We’d take time out for the Tilt-a-Whirl and the Ferris wheel – Beth always wanted to kiss a guy on the Ferris wheel. I don’t think she ever did.

I never got my kiss, either. I only had one boyfriend in high school, senior summer into senior year. But I went to the fairs. Year after year, we rode those death-trap rides, ate fresh-grilled sausage and pepper wedges, and trolled the crowd for gossip or love. When I remember Mahopac, I usually focus on the bad – the drugs, the sex, the alienation – but nothing can sully my memories of the fair. For a few days every summer, I felt what growing up in Mahopac was supposed to be – safe, innocent and idyllic. For those few days, I was just a normal kid, growing up in a small town, enjoying all it had to offer.

Ghosts of Halloween Past

“Hold still,” my mom said through the pins clamped between her lips. She tugged as the gray fabric pulled at my arms. “We’ve got to cut this more if we want it to look like a shark,” she determined, her eyebrows crinkled, “Hmm, now how do we do this?” She studied the fabric. “Ok, take it off,” she said.

She laid the costume on the ground, took a pencil, and under the arm, she drew an arc. “That should do it,” she said. She slipped the piece beneath the needle of the machine, and stitched the line she’d drawn. Exactly. I couldn’t even see the pencil line anymore. “I hate sewing,” she complained as she cut the ends of the thread.

It was Halloween Eve – mischief night to some — but to me, wardrobe and dress rehearsal. The day before my favorite day of the year. The next day I’d go to school and everyone would compliment my costume or shout out in the hall. This was the best costume yet. So far I’d been a chocolate chip cookie, a nun and the Pillsbury Dough boy. The chocolate chip cookie in third grade started it all. Our neighborhood ran a costume contest every year. I was too old for it now but my cookie costume had placed second years ago, when Amy’s Statue of Liberty won first prize. I was mad because my costume was better but they gave it to her because she had brain cancer. I didn’t forgive those judges until after Amy died.

I loved when people recognized my costume in the halls. “Michelin Man,” they’d say about my dough boy costume, and when I told them who I really was, they’d kick the stuffing that’d collected in the bottom and I squealed “Tee hee.” On Halloween, I could start a conversation with anyone. People really wanted to talk to me. We didn’t have a contest at school but it didn’t matter. That day I was the belle of the ball.

My mother hated to sew. She went to fashion high school. I don’t know why, because the piano was her first and only love, but that’s the story. She loved fashion but she hated sewing. But I benefited from my mom’s misdirected education. Every Halloween my mom would make me a costume. It was great having a mom who could sew because I wanted such elaborate costumes. Besides the chocolate chip cookie and the Pillsbury Dough Boy, I was a shark, a nun, and my personal favorite, Cousin It from the Addams family. We’d work on the costumes all week and then on the eve of Halloween we’d finish, with my mom sewing furiously and me yawning and rubbing my eyes until 11:30 when they were finally done.

Then I’d get to the bus stop at 7 a.m. and my day in the sun would begin. I woke up tired, but all the compliments and attention electrified me. I spent class time writing notes to my friends about all the attention, and tugging and primping my costume for my next curtain call between classes. Then the shouts and laughs started again.

After school the younger kids would trick or treat. The little kids had the afternoon, but the night belonged to us. That was when the bombs dropped on Lake MacGregor. I’d toss aside my painfully elaborate costume and dress as a bum with a pillowcase groaning with eggs and shaving cream. I’d meet up with the other bums and we’d bomb some houses. We’d bomb people we didn’t like. No tricks, just vandalism. If someone’d ratted on us smoking, we’d bomb their house, or their car, or their mailbox. But mostly we bombed each other.

Halloween was the night that gangs roamed the street. Upscale, suburban, honor-student gangs. Red Mills would meet up with Lake MacGregor and we’d throw eggs at each other. We’d break eggs on heads. We’d bump into someone in the dark and shower them with shaving cream. Shaving cream was just fun. Breaking an egg on a head hurts. And I never did it, but sometimes the older kids would mug the little kids for their candy. Somebody mugged me and Alison once and I still had bad memories.

On Halloween night, the cops would cruise our neighborhood in an effort to mediate the mayhem. Anyone caught with eggs or shaving cream got a free ride home in the squad car. Once they took Joel, from the richer side of town. Everybody joked that he went down yelling, “You can’t do this to me! My Dad’s a doctor!”

So when I returned home last year for Halloween I was understandably excited. It was Rose’s first real Halloween and she’d spend it in my hometown. She’d meet my best friend, my sister really, and it would be just like the old days, except this time I’d had to make my own costume because we’d come to bury my mother.

I’d been making my own costumes for some time now. I was 41 and just starting a family. It was the first time my father would meet Rose. In a month, she’d be two.

My mom had been gone for eight years by the time she died. Alzheimer’s slowly encroached upon every system in her body, making it a slow, painful death for everyone. By the time her body gave out we’d grieved, and lamented, and lashed out enough to accept the dull feeling of relief. Throughout the 13 years of her decline my helplessness had evolved into numbness, dry tears and a longing for her final breath.

So Halloween was a fitting time to go home. I loved costumes but never warmed to the creepy aspects of the celebration. Halloween was the day my own tormentors couldn’t get to me. Even my father got a kick out of my costumes. He’d take pictures and compliment my creativity. But this year it was death that brought us together.

We spent the first day at the funeral. After a cookie-cutter Greek Orthodox ceremony at the church, I’d read my eulogy and we loaded into the cars. We rode with my dad, who drove straight to the cemetery leaving the procession to sort itself out. As we drove down the back route my dad had dictated in the directions, I fielded calls from lost cousins. “You’re supposed to wait for the HEARSE!”

“I know, Dina, I know.” But my dad never noticed nor subscribed to proper decorum.

At the cemetery, we waited for the lost cousins but people complained that they had other commitments so we started the ceremony. I watched the pallbearers carry the coffin to its perch above the grave, and set the two flower arrangements – from my best friend’s family – our neighbors for 35 years – and my office –around the coffin. My dad didn’t want flowers or donations or anyone to know, really. Although my mother had taught piano to half the town, my dad insisted a wake was superfluous. If we’d had a wake, he’d have been forced to admit that Mom died of Alzheimer’s. And of course, it would have cost money — a concept to which my dad was most averse. It was safer to pretend that mom was like a stone dropped into a pond – she caused some ripples then disappeared, as if she’d never existed.

He got his wish. Her brother and sister didn’t stay for the luncheon. Her sister was too upset and her brother’s son/driver had to work an evening shift, so we had lunch with the few remaining mourners and our family priest. My dad had chosen an Italian restaurant, God bless him, so I got my New York food fix my first day home. No matter how numb you feel, a good veal marsala will bring you back to the pleasures of the flesh.

We spent the rest of the week at my best friend’s house, watching Rose fall in love with her aunt and uncle and rehashing the funeral. We tried to figure out what to do for Halloween. Rose had to trick or treat – she was old enough now and for God’s sake, she was my daughter so I had to teach her about Halloween. We had to coordinate with Cathi’s sister’s kids and we considered doing it in our old neighborhood – her parents still lived next door to my dad – but in the end, her sister’s kids chose their own trick-or-treating territory.

And it was fun. I dressed as a polygamist from a radical Mormon sect, Rose was a parrot, and Matt had planned on a traditional all-white suit to compliment my outfit, but the funeral had pre-empted his costume hunt, so he followed us, drinking “coffee” out of a to-go cup and taking pictures.

Polly want some candy!

Rose loved trick-or-treating and bugged us to go back out once we’d come in for more “coffee.” We laughed amongst the mayhem that only nine young kids in a 1950s-era cottage can provide, and left tired and happy, feeling lucky to have spent my favorite holiday with my chosen “family.” I realized that much as my dad had tried, my mom’s life wasn’t just a ripple in a pond. She left me with 40 years worth of treasured memories, a line of custom-handmade costumes and the opportunity to spend Rose’s first Halloween with the people I loved the most.

Book Excerpt: Heirlooms

I cannot describe the longing I have for garden tomatoes. For me, they define the summer and the lesson we learn about having patience to wait for the good things in life. This year I planted 10 plants, hoping to be lousy with tomatoes by this time of the year. We’ve harvested a few but I’m still waiting. Since I don’t know any sun dances I’m posting this in the hopes that we’ll get some ripe tomatoes this year. And if anyone knows how to speed the process, please let me know!

The plants grew along the back and side of the house, to get the southern and western sun. We grew tomatoes and zucchini every year in back. Sometimes we planted green peppers, eggplant, cucumbers or string beans. The side garden held tomato overflow and every summer I would plant the bottoms of some scallions at the end, near the chimney, after we’d eaten the tops. The mint patch abutted the side garden, but it never encroached on the tomatoes.

Beginning in August, I’d survey the garden daily, looking for precious patches of orange, then pink, more pink, darker pink, and finally red. “Mommy!” I’d scream, yanking open the wood screen door and rounding the corner to the kitchen, “We have tomatoes!”

“Really?” She’d follow me outside. “Where?”

“Right there, Mommy!” I pointed.

“Where? Oh yeeaah, there it is. It’s red, all right.”

“Can I pick it?”

“Are you sure it’s ripe? Could get redder, you know.”

“Please, can I pick it?”

“Go ahead, Honey.”

I ran to the patio and bent the stake at the end of the chicken-wire fence, squeezed behind it, and tiptoed around the plants to get to the right one. “Here it is, Mommy!”

“Go ahead. Pick it.” I wrapped my hand around its warm skin, feeling its delicate heft, and plucked it from the vine.

“Got it! Can I make a sandwich?”

“You can do whatever you want, Honey,” Mom said.

I went inside and pulled out two slices of white bread. “Cut it for me, please!” I said. My mom ran it under the sink and cut out the stem part in a little cone with the little knife she used for everything. I got the mayonnaise out of the fridge. She cut the tomato into round slices.

“Be right back!” I said, running out the back door.” I headed to the side garden and pinched off two scallions, then ran back inside, clutching them in my fist. At the table, I laid out both slices of bread, spread them with mayonnaise and ripped the scallions to fit the sandwich, laying them on the left-hand slice. Mom brought over the tomato slices and I laid two slices on top of the scallions, decided the sandwich could take one more and added it. I topped it with the other slice of bread and took a bite. The soft bread, the warm sweet and sour of the tomato, the creamy mayonnaise and the tang of the scallions combined into the sweet, lazy flavor of summer.

We also made tomato salads. My current favorite recipe is one ripe heirloom tomato, cut in small 1/8 wedges, drizzle with balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil, heavily salt, lightly pepper and add fresh oregano. Oriste!

Book Excerpt: The Stick Game

That’s it! The gold glow rising from the green depths – my quarry. I hold my nose and jump in. I hear two more splashes behind me, but I’m the first one down. Where is it? All I can see is green. Oh, wait, there it is! I reach out, feel its smooth wood. Got it! Clutching it like the Olympic torch, my fist breaks the surface before I do, but everyone sees. I got the stick!

I swim around to the ladder, climb up on the dock, dripping on the turf rug, and we start again. This time I get to take it down. Hmm, dive or pin drop? Pin drops take you deeper. Standing at the edge of the dock, facing the beach, I hold the stick in one hand, plaster my hands to my thighs for optimum aquadynamics, and drop, pointing my toes straight down. I feel the bubbles around me and when the water feels coldest, I let go. I float up and hang on the dock, looking up at the row of expectant faces. I pull myself to the ladder and climb up. It’s my turn to watch.

Donna’s whole body twitches. She spots it, dives; a few more kids jump after her, and she’s got it. Donna’s the best swimmer in our lake. She always beat me when we raced on Family Day, and I always admired how strong and swift she was in the water. The lake goes right up to her backyard, so she swims all the time, without a lifeguard. We live across the street from the lake. My mom always tells my dad we should have gotten a house on the lake, and he says “Oh, Viki, please, you know how expensive that would be?” and waves her away.

Everyone goes to the beach anyway. We walk down the road in our flip-flops, rolling my big inner tube in front of us, past Donna’s house, past Karen’s, past the people who live next to the beach but never go. We see the whole neighborhood there, grownups and all. Donna and her sisters, Cynthia, Rob, Alison, Dan. Cathi and I get there and we wade to our knees and then jump into the cold. But it’s not cold for long, and with the sun warming our faces, it always feels good to be in the water. When my cousins visit and we take them down here, they blow air out their noses and say the lake smells. It does. It smells like lake. Green, cool, and wet. We like it.

And then we swim out to the dock and play The Stick Game. We use an ice cream stick or an Italian Ice spoon, someone takes it down, and we go after it. Whoever gets it takes it down next. We play all day, or until we hear the bells.

“Jing Jing! Jing Jing!” Everyone runs for the edge, the front of the dock dips almost to the water but then everyone dives in and heads toward the beach. White wakes can’t catch up with us as we race for shore. We ransack our pockets or beg our parents and run up the ramp to wait outside the white truck on the sizzling pavement. We’re pretty cool from swimming but sometimes someone will order a Bomb Pop, Fun Dip, Bottle Caps, a Snow Cone and a Chocolate Éclair and the water under our feet will get hot, burn off and then we all jump from foot to foot, waiting for our Toasted Almond or Strawberry Shortcake and candy.

One by one, we walk down the paved sandy ramp, hands clutching bundles of ice cream and candy, we sit on our towels to eat. No one swims while the ice cream man visits or for a half hour after, because we’ll get cramps and drown. That’s when the moms put their babies in the water, in front of the yellow rope with the blue and white floats. Sometimes the grownups swim then. My dad swims across the lake and back. But we all sit on the beach, in twos and threes, licking orange push ups until we see that plastic Fred Flintstone or Yogi Bear or bite the chocolate off Nutty Buddies as we drip dry.

When our ice cream’s gone, we open our candy. Candy doesn’t count toward our half hour out of the water, so we eat while we wait. I have a purple ring pop and Cathi’s got giant Sweet tarts – the chewy kind. Chews

“What days are you going to the fair?”

“I think Thursday and Saturday. My dad wants to go to the movies on Friday.”

“We’re going Saturday too. Maybe you can come with us.”

“I’ll ask.”

At the fair, it’ll be me and Cathi or me and Alison, Rob will walk around with his friends, Cynthia with the stuck-up pretty girls, Donna and Corinne with their sisters. Same thing at school, except for Donna and Corinne. They’re in different grades, so they split up at school.

Then our half hour’s over. One by one, two by two, we throw our trash in the can and head straight for the water. When we get to the dock, Rob says he had a cherry Italian Ice, so we’ve got a new stick, stained pink. Spoons are the best sticks — fat and easiest to see. It’s his stick, so he dives off the dock and takes it down.

Two Eggs Over Easy

Instead of the expected sappy Mother’s Day tribute, I thought I’d share this excerpt from my book in progress, and finish writing the scene while I was at it. Though she wasn’t able to understand, my mother inspired this book. I heard author Natalie Goldberg speak at the Seattle Public Library, and she told us that when her mom died, she attempted to record every single thing she could remember about the woman who brought her life. My mom suffered from advanced Alzheimer’s at the time, and I thought I should remember her the same way. Although she would have hated having her secrets exposed, the book is a fitting tribute because my mother was the first person to suggest I become an author, like it was a real possibility, not to mention a real profession. (Be careful what you wish for!) She also inadvertently inspired me by reading, all the time. My mom always had a novel in hand and she taught me that people respected and admired authors. I disappointed my father by not embracing the security of the insurance industry, but maybe it’s not too late for my recently-deceased mother’s approval. I miss you, Mom. We just said goodbye but I wish we had all those years we lost.

Three?” said the host as he picked up the thick menus. “Follow me.”
“Can we get a table instead of a booth?” my father asked. I hate tables, he hates booths.

We got to the table at the center of the dining room. I pulled out my chair and it hit the chair behind it. “Sorry,” I said, as I squeezed into my seat, my belly inches from our table. I grabbed a menu and surveyed it. Pizza burger, well done. A busboy filled our water glasses.

My father retrieved his reading glasses from his shirt pocket, held the menu at arm’s length, glanced at it and shut it. “What are you getting?” I asked.
“BLT. Without the mayo. Mayo puts on the pounds. Remember that.”
My mother also donned her reading glasses and opened the many-leafed menu. She looked at the first page. The waiter came over. “Can I start get you some drinks?” he asked, pad poised.
“I’ll just have water,” my father said.
“Can I have a Diet Pepsi, please?” I said.
“We have Coke.”
“Ok.”
“I’ll have a Seven-Up,” my mom said.

I examined the map of Greece on the placemat. Touched Athens, been there; touched Delphi, been there; touched Sparta, haven’t been there, but that’s where Yaya came from. Looked in the northern part of Greece for Trikala, my dad’s homeland. I never found it on these menus. Too small, I guessed. Just like Mahopac. Doesn’t even show up on the map.

My mother turned the page, squinted, frowned. I looked up, surveyed the other people in the dining room. Families, mostly. After church crowd. I spotted a family laughing, teasing each other. I wanted to watch them more closely but I didn’t want to get caught. We never laugh like that. What do those kids talk about with their parents? My father stared into space. My mother turned the page again. “What are you gonna have, Viki?” my dad asked, impatient.

“I don’t know. I don’t see anything,” she said, holding the menu out farther.

The waiter approached with our drinks, set them down, “What can I get you?” he asked, pen poised.

“I need a few more minutes,” my mom said.

“Ok.” He left.

Thought about the report I’d put off until today. I hate Sundays. I looked down at the map again. I miss crayons. I know I’m too old for them but at least I’d have something to do. I looked around some more, studied the pastry-go-round. Oh, that big chocolate one looks yummy. Is that real whipped cream? Mom and Dad hate buttercream.

The waiter came back, “Are we ready to order?” he asked my mother.
“Oh, uh, ask them first,” my mother said.
He looked at my father, “BLT on white toast.”
My turn, “Pizza burger with fries.”
“How would you like that cooked?”
“Well-done.”
He looked at my mother. “What can I get you?”
She sighed as she closed her menu. “I’ll just have two eggs over easy.”
“White, wheat, or rye toast?”
“Oh…I don’t know…rye.”
He left.

“Jim, I want to go to Caldor’s and pick up some detergent. It’s on sale,” she said.
“After this?”
“Yes, I want to make sure they don’t run out. Last time I got there on a Monday and it was gone. I hate rainchecks.”
“Ok, after we eat,” he said.

I looked around at the other families. One of the booth’s jukeboxes played a song. I strained to hear. “Jessie’s Girl.” They never let me play the jukebox at the diner. Even if we wound up in a booth. Dad only likes Dixieland and Mom doesn’t like prerecorded music. “Why listen to that when you can play your own?” was her reasoning.

“Ok, pizza burger, BLT on toast, and eggs over easy. Is there anything else I can get you?” the waiter asked.
“More coffee,” my father said.
“More water, please,” I said.
He left to fetch the pitchers. Mom poked her fork into her egg.
“Ohhhh…”
“What is it, Viki?” my dad asked.
“These eggs are too done,” she said, pushing the plate away. “I can’t eat this.”
The waiter returned and poured my dad’s coffee.
“Excuse me,” my mom said, “These eggs are too done. Can you get me some that are softer?”
“Of course,” the waiter said. “Softer.”
“Yes, please,” my mom said with a whole-body sigh.
“It may take a few minutes, but I’ll get them out as soon as I can.”
“Oh. Ok.”
He picked up her plate and left.
“Oh well,” my mother said. “Now I have to wait.”
My dad and I dug in.

I had one bite left when the waiter came back. My dad’s plate boasted a few crumbs. “Here we are, two eggs over easy, soft-cooked,” the waiter said, placing her plate on the table.
“Thank you,” my mom said. She picked up her fork and looked at the waiter over her shoulder.
“Are they ok?” he asked.
She took a bite, “Yes. They’re fine. Thank you.”
“Will there be anything else?” he asked.
“You can take these,” my dad said, waving at our plates. He picked them up and left.
We drank our coffee and Diet Coke.
“You don’t have to watch me eat,” mom said. “I hate when people watch me eat.”
We turned our faces to the windows to wait.

“Check, please?” my father pointed to his palm as the waiter walked by.
“Jim, I’m not done!” Mom said.
“Well, let’s go, Vicki. You wanted to go to Caldor’s.”
“Well, if we’re in such a rush, then I’m done.” She’d eaten half an egg.
“Eat, Vicki, eat. The check isn’t here yet,” my father said.
“No, I’m done,” she said, pushing her plate away and putting her napkin back on the table. The waiter slapped the check on the table and my father picked it up, looked at it, pulled out his wallet, did some calculations, then tucked a few dollars under the sugar dispenser.

“Ok, you ready?” I picked up my jacket, my mother got her sweater, and we followed him to the register.
“Was everything ok, sir,” the host asked in his thick Greek accent.
“Yes, yes, efharisto. Everything was fine.”

If you’re interested, Natalie Goldberg will be the keynote speaker at the Write on the Sound writer’s conference in Edmonds October 1-3. In the interest of full disclosure, I sit on the WOTS board.