Monday, November 25, 2013

52. A Turkey's Thanks Giving

One November, we drove up from Los Angeles to northern California to visit relatives in the area and then go over to Salinas to celebrate Thanksgiving dinner with our nephew, Sam and his family. He and his wife, Carol, had invited both sides of their families and expected 45 people. With such a huge number, they decided it would be easier on everyone to have a delicious turkey plus dinner at their club house. The menu included roast beef and salmon for anyone who didn't like turkey. But all the traditional side dishes would be served, sage and onion stuffing, mashed potatoes, baked sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, cranberry relish, and of course, pumpkin pie with whipped cream. I knew there would be lots of other dessert choices, too, for non-pumpkin lovers. The star of the table, though, was always the golden brown bird bursting with flavor.

The day before, with the help of their red haired daughter, Morgan, they had set the round tables with rust and brown colored tablecloths and napkins. Each table had a centerpiece of yellow and orange mums interspersed with multicolored leaves.

The fall is my favorite season with its beautiful colors and crisp, fresh air. Of course down in the LA area we don't get too much crisp air, but the Salinas area was beautiful. Thanksgiving is also my favorite holiday—no gifts to buy, wrap and worry about, no major house decorating, and no required church service. Of course, at the dinner table we always go around the table, giving thanks for the past year's blessings. No matter how bad a year it may have been, we can always be grateful for our friends and family and that we have enough (more than enough) to eat.

On Thanksgiving morning my husband, Joe, and I stopped at Sam's for a light breakfast of croissants and strong coffee. Sam and Carol's house is located in a beautiful, wooded area and it was good to see the results of all the work they had put into making it comfortable. Other family members including our son, Bill, and his family were there having just arrived from Idaho.

Will, our 11 year old grandson, was going through his repertoire of turkey jokes. At that time his life's ambition was to be a stand up comic.

We paid closer attention when he qualified one, saying it might be unsuitable for children. His mother jumped in and said, “Well maybe you better not tell it.”

He brushed her objections aside, “Oh, Mom, don't worry. It's just a joke.” Then asked, “Does anyone know why you can't take a turkey to church?”

Grandpa Joe played along with him. “Gee, I don't know. Why can't you?”

Trying to suppress a grin, Will replied, “They use FOWL language.”

When his captive audience finished groaning, he continued on. “What happened when the turkey got into a fight?”

Winn, Will's younger brother, yelled out, “Oh I know that one. The turkey got the stuffing knocked out of him.”

Will gave him a dirty look. “Winn, you heard me rehearsing. You're not allowed to answer any.” But he didn't let the interruption stop him, he went on.

“I bet no one else knows what you get when you cross a turkey with a banjo?”

Before anyone could disappoint Will, I jumped in to reassure him, “I don't have a clue. What do you get?”

This time, Will had to cover his mouth to keep from laughing as he explained, “A turkey that can pluck itself.”

Carol said, “Thank heavens, when you buy a turkey now they're already plucked and ready for the oven. Of course, this year I didn't even have to shop for one since the chef at the club is doing all the cooking.”

Morgan shouted, “Hey everyone. Look out the window. Guess who's coming to dinner?”

We all turned our heads to look out the big picture window overlooking the rural road at the side of the house.

“Oh, my gosh,” I couldn't believe what I was seeing. I and everyone else went outside to get a better look. Mitzi, the little dachshund, was barking her head off.

Down the road, walking erratically as if they hadn't a care in the world, came a flock of white, wild turkeys. Mitzi was going crazy trying to drive off the intruders. It was wonderful. I had never seen a flock of turkeys before.

Winn laughed, “Hey, don't they know it's a dangerous day. They could get eaten.”

Morgan said, “No, they know everyone's already got their turkey. So they're safe for another year.”

I added, “Well, it is Thanks Giving day. They must be thankful they aren't on a dinner table.” Will, of course, had the last word. Although I think he must have been thinking about another holiday, Fourth of July – Independence Day.

He asked another of his 'fowl' questions. “What did the turkey say to the man who tried to shoot it?”

Winn's eyes lit up and he opened his mouth, but Will, with perfect timing, jumped in with the answer.

“Liberty, equality and bad aim for all.”

                                                              The end.

Monday, November 18, 2013

51. Cruising, Italian Style

I was surprised when I saw Antonio, our Italian tour leader, slip out of Anita's cabin. I was on my way to the ship's coffee set up for those of us early risers who couldn't wait for the breakfast buffet. Was Anita sick, did she need help? It had been clear from the first day of our trip that friendly, outgoing Antonio did not like Anita. What on earth was he doing in her room?

I ducked back into my own cabin and shook my husband's shoulder until he woke.

“Jim, there's something going on.” I sat down on his side of the bed.

“Unnn, there's always something going on. Let me sleep.” He rolled over and burrowed his head into his pillow.

“What do you think of Anita?” I demanded.

“Anita who?” he muttered.

“You know, the pretty blond girl who's traveling alone. I thought it odd she didn't have a boyfriend or even just a friend to travel with. But Antonio...”

“You're not going to let me sleep, are you, unless I play this guessing game with you?”

“Oh, go back to sleep. Barbara will be up getting coffee. I'll go talk to her.”

My best friend Barbara and her husband Dennis were with us on this two week small ship cruise down the western coast of Italy. We enjoyed blue skies with marshmallow fluff clouds during the day as we visited ancient, picturesque villages and in the evenings dined on too much pasta, pizza, and tiramisu. The trip was like a travel brochure. Except for the hostility between Antonio and Anita.

Jim and I had been on other cruises and the tour leaders were always friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful, no matter how difficult a traveler might be. And Anita was nice. But they avoided each other as if they were in a school yard and afraid of getting 'cooties' from each other.

Carefully holding my fragrant cup of coffee, I plopped on a green and white deck chair next to Barbara. I brought her up to date on what I'd seen.

“That is odd. Yesterday he yelled at her for being the last person to arrive for the day's outing. And she wasn't even late. There was still two minutes before departure time.” She took a sip of her coffee and sighed. “Well, it's not our problem, is it?”

I shook my head. “Nooo. But if he dislikes her what was he doing in her cabin? Could he have been looking through her stuff while she was up here with a wake up coffee?”

“I haven't seen her yet this morning, and I can't imagine that nice young man would go through her things. Why he'd certainly be fired, if he was caught.”

“I'm sure you're right, so again I ask what was he doing in her room?”

Barbara looked at me over her reading glasses, “Well if you really need to know why don't you just ask him.”

Of course I couldn't do that. My curiosity wasn't that rampant, but I vowed I would keep an eye on him to see if he did anything else that seemed odd.

Every night after dinner there was dancing in the little bar lounge. And every night Antonio took turns dancing with each woman who either didn't have a partner or whose husband didn't want to dance. Except I realized he never danced with Anita. But she didn't seem interested in dancing with him either. She always turned her back to him when he approached her table to see if anyone wanted to dance.

I pointed this out to Jim and being a man, he said, “What are you talking about?”

“Oh, you never notice anything.”

The next morning I was quiet as I left our cabin for my early morning caffeine jolt, in case I'd see Antonio again.  The hallway was clear. I hate to admit it but I did slow as I passed Anita's door. She must have had the TV on for I could heard low voices murmuring. At least Antonio wouldn't be sneaking around her cabin if she was there.

Our excursion that morning was the seaside village of La Spezia. We were climbing about 100 uneven stone steps up to the heavily carved doors of a Baroque church. Anita, like a young colt, hair streaming behind her, was scampering up ahead of the rest of us, probably trying to avoid Antonio again. She yelped as she stumbled and fell to her knees. Antonio, his face pale, scrambled to her side and gently examined her ankle.

At last he was acting like a responsible tour guide even if he didn't like Anita. But as we gathered around to see if she was OK, he dropped her foot like it burned his hands.

Anita's brown eyes glistened with tears. “I'm so sorry to cause trouble.” She looked at him and then down at her rapidly swelling ankle.

“Can you stand?” Antonio demanded. He helped her up. “Can you walk?”

“I'll help her back to the ship.” I offered. “You need to stay here to continue the tour for the group.”

Jim and I helped her make her way down the hill to the dock, across the gangplank and to her cabin. He went to get ice while I put a pillow under her ankle.

After assuring myself that she was all right I couldn't stand it any longer. “What is wrong with Antonio? I've never seen a tour guide be so mean to a client.”

She looked at me stricken. “No, no, you mustn't blame him.”

“Well, then what's going on between you two?”

“Please, if I tell you, do not repeat this.” I promised to keep her story confidential.

"Antonio and I were married the day before the tour started.”

I almost fell on her bed. I was not expecting that story.

“We were supposed to leave on our honeymoon but the original guide for this tour got seriously ill and couldn't continue. Since Antonio had lead this tour many times, the company begged him to do it and offered to let me come on the tour free of charge. We agreed because we thought we could save the money we would have spent on a wedding trip, but of course, we couldn't let people know we were honeymooners. It would have been unprofessional.”

“So instead you acted as if you disliked each other.” I thought of that old saying, 'Oh, what webs we weave when first we practice to deceive.' But then I thought of how much I was going to enjoy telling Barbara this story. After we got home, of course. I didn't want to let the cat out of the bag just yet.
                                                                   The End