Lesson From a Master

                    December 1954 with Laurie

     Thanksgiving dinners were always a Big Deal in my family, with massed generations of far-flung aunties and cousins all gathered for a formal sit-down feast on linen-covered tables at one or another of our homes. Yes, the food was uniformly delicious and the tables were bountiful, but they produced a buttload* of dirty china, silver, and crystal to hand wash and dry afterwards. Inasmuch as I was the oldest girl-child and supposedly the most “responsible,” the task always came to me to wash the trays full of expensive tableware while the adults enjoyed their after-dinner libations and conversations in the living room. 

     My younger sister, Laurie, detested the annual chore almost as much as I did, but she was far more devious in finagling her way out of it. Whining worked for the first couple of years, and then she tried employing outright defiance— with limited success. Somehow she always ended up “persuaded” to get out into the kitchen and pick up a dishtowel. Now! 

     Finally, the year she hit puberty, she’d had enough. At meal’s end, when Madre gave the signal to start clearing the table, Laurie jumped up from her seat and began gathering Aunt Sally’s Limoges with suspicious alacrity. 

     Delighted to have her help, I set to sudsing and soaking the silver while the womenfolk cleared the table and carefully stacked the dirty dishes and stemware on the counters for us to wash. Then we two were left to the kitchen chores while the little kids went outside to play and our elders retired to their various topics and turbulences. 

     When Laurie was sure all the adults had left the kitchen, she picked up a Baccarat wine goblet, twirled the stem between her thumb and forefinger, and then with a little flourish and flick of her finger dropped it to the tile flooring where it shattered at her feet. The tinkling of expensive crystal sent several aunties running into the kitchen. “Oops,” said Laurie. “Here, let me have the towel,” said Madre. And with a sly wink that only I could see, Laurie took off for the library and whatever book she was currently engrossed in. “That’s how you do it,” she smirked to me on the way back home. Damned impressive was all I could think. 

Happy Birthday to my most remarkable and dearly beloved sister, Laurie Downs Publicover, M.D.; Humanitarian, and wit extraordinaire. 

*Buttload (n) Measure of wine or spirits equal to two hogsheads or approximately 126 gallons—giving the word an amusing flair when used in this context.

©Allena Hansen. Chomp, Chomp, Chomp


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