Ok, the story couldn't wait. After I wrote the first entry, I kept on thinking about that story. Here it comes.
When I was about ten years old, my mother remarried. I think, but I'm not sure, that she petitioned the court to grant her divorce by abandonment (my biological father had left us when I was about three years old), and Ernie, the man she had been dating for a long time, became our stepfather.
Nana was NOT a fan of Ernie, from day one. My sisters and I started off differently, but as time went by, we were in Nana's camp. He was a Nazi. No, I don't mean just temperament, although that was true. He belonged to the Nazi party. He had an illegal gun collection, a uniform from the Third Reich, you name it, he had it. And that wasn't the worst of it. His dream was to buy a piece of land in Montana where he could move us all and protect us from the up and coming race riot.
But in the meantime, to make himself useful, he used to do the grocery shopping for Nana. Until she put an end to it by walking on her arthritic feet to the stores, every day, to get the groceries.
Well, as a typical "macho but really not" kinda guy (you know the ones: use a BIG hammer. Get MORE POWER on that electric drill, put MORE lighter fluid on that fire), bigger was better for Klink (his nick name, after "Colonel Klink in Hogan's Heroes). So, one day, when he was "helping" Nana with the shopping, one of the items on the list was "zucchini - 3 pounds."
I still remember the look of horror on Nana's face as she pulled the three pound monster squash out of the bag. I don't think you can really imagine something like this. If you consider that a medium to large zucchini weighs about 6 ounces, or that a typical butternut squash may come in at a little LESS than three pounds, well....
So after she stared at this thing for about ten minutes, she began to mutter to herself in Italian. Dialect. Now, when Nana went into dialect, you KNEW she was talking to herself to try to calm herself down. It wasn't working. She started to snicker. And then to laugh. I understood enough dialect to understand why. Briefly, she had begun to construct this story as to WHY he had bought this huge "thing," and how it really wasn' t intended for the kitchen but how Joann (my mother) "was gonna be happy for the first time in a long time." Finally she just couldn't take it anymore and put her head down on the kitchen table, and began laughing hysterically.
Nana had what we called a "cry laugh." It didn't sound like laughing. It sounded like crying (her crying was very quiet, almost silent. Years later, I learned that she had developed that silent cry because her mother used to beat her if she caught her crying). But if you saw her face, you knew she was laughing. Of course, with her face on the table, you couldn't see it. But I knew. I had heard the talk she gave herself.
My mom came into the kitchen and saw it and I still remember her saying to Klink "Aw, hon, look. Ma is so moved by what you did for her, she can't hold it in." Well, that just made it better, or worse, for Nana, and the "cry laugh" just got louder and she really was having trouble breathing.
I, however, did not have a cry laugh. It was very clear that I was having a really good time with what was happening. This did NOT sit well with Mom, who gave me a stern yelling , in her shrill voice.
'YOU THINK THIS IS FUNNY YOUNG MAN ? WELL, YOU CAN GO WITHOUT DINNER TONIGHT. WE'LL EAT ALL THAT ZUCCHINI OURSELVES."
Uh oh. Yup. Nana looked up at me , stuck her tongue out and then went back to the table , trying to get her breath back.
I, in contrast, was sent to my bedroom to go without supper. No zucchini for me. No big loss. Dinner at home was NOT the most pleasant of meals when Klink and Mom were there. And I got to read!
Well, Nana had her bedroom just down the hallway from me, and when she came up to say her prayers (a two hour event, every night), before she went to bed, she brought me a plate of food she had hidden in her apron.
No zucchini. I THINK that Klink had figured out what was going on, because she told me he had eaten four helpings. Even then I was bad.
"So I guess Mom won't be happy tonight, Nana?" She started laughing. "Of course she will . He ate like a pig. He'll be asleep in ten minutes. She won' t have to watch any John Wayne movies."
Good squash, bad squash, little squash, big squash. I guess I should feel blessed that I can laugh about some of those stories now.
Nana, you still make me laugh.