Sundays with friends and family
by Turtle Jones
It's Sunday and there is nothing to do. Sure we can cook alone and hang out by ourselves and listen to music, but really, what we always wanted to do was hang out with our friends and family. Something we all do. BBQ's with friends and family. Drinking a lot and playing golf. As long as you had some kind of fun, everything was cool. That's the way it works.
Gatherings. Not really parties. Just more of a chance to hang out with family and friends and smell the food being cooked as you listened to a story about some relative or someone who broke their leg. Things you might not wanna hear, but you do it for one reason.
So today's story is about the one thing that holds all people together.
Sunday food, familes and friends.
These are our memories.
Michele is up first today.
It’s Sunday afternoon. 2:00. I’m about 11 years old. Time for dinner at Grandma’s.
2:00 dinner? It’s an Italian thing. Some kind of pasta - usually ziti, but sometimes rigatoni or spaghetti and, on special occasions, ravioli. Or cavatelli. That was always home made. Lasagna, that was for holidays. Easter, Christmas. Oh, and penne. And rotelli - the curly pasta.
I walk across the street to Grandma’s at about noon. I sit at the table and watch her make the sauce. She lets me help her with the meatballs. Wash my hands. Squish up the eggs and bread crumbs and ground beef. Roll them into balls and pop them into the sauce pot with the sausages. That smell. The sauce cooking, the sausage, the meatballs. You could walk outside and half a block away and still inhale the aroma coming out of Grandma’s window. That’s the smell of my childhood. The smell of family and happiness.
Everyone comes over at 2. Aunt, uncles, cousins. Dozens of us. We all live on the same block, so it’s not hard to get us together. Kids sit in the kitchen, adults gather in the dining room. Oh, to be part of the “big people” table. I see my older cousins moving up, graduating from the kitchen to the grown ups where they have real conversations about war and taxes and things that make my Grandma blush. In the kitchen, we talk about cartoons and baseball cards. You don’t realize when you’re a kid that the kiddie table is probably the better place to be. “Nixon is a bastard” vs. “I’ll give you a mat of firecrackers for you Bud Harrelson card”? If only I could still sit at the kid table.
Grandpa sits with us today. He does that sometimes to get away from all the talk. He doesn’t care about Nixon or taxes or Aunt Carol running away with the mailman. He just cares about his wine. And he shares the love of his wine with us. A wine connoisseur, he’s not. Just a drinker. He keeps his wine in jugs. Glass, gallon sized jugs that he hides all over the house. Grandma doesn’t like the drinking. Well, she doesn’t like that Grandpa drinks all day long. So they play this little game. He hides the wine. She finds it. Down the drain it goes. Grandpa pulls another jug out of his ass! Grandpa wins! So when Grandpa sits at the kiddie table, we know we are in for a treat. Wine! Not just wine, but singing, too. A glass or two down the hatch and we get the whole Jimmy Roselli catalog.
Grandpa’s clever with the wine he gives us. He cuts up peaches and apples. Slices them with a pocket knife and dumps a few slices of each into our soda glasses. Then tops off our soda with red wine. See, the fruit makes it nutritious. Healthy. He’s just doing right by us.
That doesn't always play well. At least not today. Grandma comes into the kitchen and sees all the kids sitting around the table, holding glasses of fruit/soda/wine toward Grandpa in an Alla Salute! pose. Grandma freaks. She moves in like a cougar and in one move, swipes the jug away from the table, turns toward the sink and pours the wine down the drain. No matter how many times we've seen this, it's still horrifying. That's Grandpa's treasure. He made that wine himself. Us kids stomped on the grapes just last week. After all that work, after breaking all those child labor laws to help Grandpa make his wine, it's like watching blood being poured from a wound. My grandfather, the Wine Martyr. It's not even the loss of the wine that's so horrifying; there are a hundred more jugs just like it hidden away in the garage. It's the act of draining the wine from the bottle, the balls of my grandmother to take that one thing, that one joy my grandfather has. something he made, and discard it like that, right in front of him, while hissing Va fa 'nculo! under her breath We freak out. One cousin thinks we should make a run for it. But Grandma turns on us next.
“Now you will drink every bit of that wine in your glasses!”
Huh? Was she talking to us? After all her bitching and screaming about Grandpa giving us wine, she's forcing us to drink it? I think it’s supposed to be some sort of punishment and I wonder if it's directed towards us or towards Grandpa.
“Now! Drink it!”
We all lift our glasses and drink the wine down, afraid of what grandma will do if we don't follow through. You might think is a good thing, but none of us had ever drank a full glass of wine before, with or without peaches. We're lightweights for Italians. Hell, we are all 12, yet to grow into our drinking genes. After three sips the wine burns my throat. One of my sisters gags. Someone sobs.
“You can’t leave the table until you are all done.” She points at Grandpa. “And you, you can’t get up until they are done, either.”
I get it now. She's punishing us for being on Grandpa’s side. For conspiring with him and his peaches and apples, knowing full well that this kind of stuff makes Grandma have a cow. I think about switching sides. Grandpa is mellow. He won’t care if I bail on him. But Grandma, she can call down the wrath of God. She’ll make him hit me with lightning or something. I could turn on Grandpa easy. Just tell Grandma she is right. Save myself some Catholic punishment.
Just then, Grandpa starts singing.
When the moon hits your eye like a big-a pizza pie, that's amore!
We look at each other and shrug. What the hell. We sing: That’s amore!
Grandpa grins. Grandma scowls.
When the world seems to shine like you've had too much wine,
Grandpa looks our way. We sing. that's amore!
We sing, sip our wine and watch Grandma morph into some seething, purple monster. We drain the glasses, slam then down like cowboys in a saloon and head into the living room, feeling a little bit lightheaded. We leave Grandma and Grandpa alone in the kitchen, where they will fight it out. Again.
By the time that argument is over, the dishes are done, coffee is made and the kids all run outside. We play basketball or kickball or steal someone’s cigarettes and go up to the school yard to practice inhaling.
Another Sunday dinner gone.
After Grandpa died in 1991, the dinners faded away. Grandma didn’t want to do it anymore. She just sat around and pined for Grandpa. For the guy she yelled at 24/7, the guy she called every name in the Big Book of Italian Insults, the guy she beat with a spatula, the guy she scowled at all the time. Maybe that’s all we saw because that’s all we knew to look for. All I know is that when Grandpa died, Grandma went on strike. If she couldn’t cook for her man, she wouldn’t cook for anyone.
That’s amore. - M
Whoo! I guess none of this really matters to anyone any more since we aren't in High School, but it still is a summer tradition. BBQ's. Heat so hot you lose things in the sun that looks like glass beaming from the sky off the asphalt. Start the fire and add more heat. Shirt comes off and more lighter fluid poured on. Keg is tapped and then we all step back while "Hairless" Tommy lights the blaze. Fire ball hits the roof. We are going. Ladies inside making some healthy shit while we muscle back beer and wait for the ladies to come back one at a time to grab another beer. This is the way it works. They cut, then smell the fire and the grill and the fade off from the kitchen one by one to the keg while one lady sits and bitches at all of us for leaving her alone to make make some kind of tofu fucking thing. The hell if I know. It really didn't matter to us. The party was going. A band was playing and the kitchen was empty. Cept for Little Miss Vegan. She was getting all healthy on us. The fire was heating and there was fun to be had. But, we needed something to do. What did we have? hm.
Two story house. Golf clubs. A ladder. Golf balls. A highway. Cars driving by. Lots of beer. Bands playing.
And an idea.
I grabbed a driver and fed some golf balls into my pockets as I slammed the rest of my beer and climbed on the roof. Followed by two people with a twelve pack and some tees. We were going to make this. I threw the club on the roof and climbed up. Rested and cracked a beer. What to do now?
*this is the standard time in our stories where we ask you to look at our disclaimer*
I slammed the beer and looked around. Three highways intersected into one about 300 feet away. Hm. Idea. I placed the ball one the ground and tossed my cigarette. Grabbed a tee and shoved it into the melted tar on the roof and placed my ball on it.
Oh, you know where this is going.
Wacked those balls on the freeway for about a half hour while we stood their and gave each other handicaps on how well we were doing. I was like at 15 handicap for hitting the freeway. Balls were being thrown up to us as we kept hitting them over.
Oh! Windshield! Direct hit! Yes, looking back on this, it was really bad for me to do and trust me I have made amends to all those I could find for these past actions.
But, I think I had a five handicap by the end of the day.
The food was almost done as we ran out of balls. We did our damage and my head was spinning like jesus christ on corn whiskey. I was blessing everyone on the roof as I got on the ladder with the club in my hand. Climbed two steps down before everything was space. My hand gave out. It just let go. Two story fall and I hit the ground. Blood coming down as I just sat there wondering why didn't god save me? I was jesus. Maybe this was like some kind of biblical thing. I slowly muttered "Father, why hast thou forsaken me?" People picking me up asking me if I knew my first name.
No, I don't know my name.
That's why I drink, dumbass.
I was taken to my bed by a bunch of guys. Covered in blood as they put the covers over me and left. A few hours later, I guess, people came over asking for me. Where was I at. This is his party? Where is he? One of the nicest people in the world came up to my room with her friends and looked at my wounds. She decided we needed to go to the ER fast. I was dragged out to the car by an armada of girls shoving me in some Ford Bronco. Pushed some more balls into my pocket to keep going. Taken to a hospital with a concussion and open wounds, drunk off my ass. Bunch of chicks in the back wrapping me up and getting me dressed.
I had a girl posse. Yee haw!
I was taken immediately into stiching, then x-rays, then waiting room, then more x-rays. The whole time the doctors were asking me if I had been drinking tonight. What do you think, Sherlock? I was just on a two story building hitting golf balls into traffic. You don't need a fucking calculator to figure out I'm pretty shitfaced right now.
I gave each doctor a golf ball from my pocket as I walked out of the hospital. Stiched up with a neck brace.
I will always remember one doctor looking at one of the golf balls I had given him and saying....
"Hey! A Ping Eye! You need to get hurt more often!"
Shut up, you dick - T
So what's your story? Do you have Sunday food traditions? Maybe you bbq with family or watch football with friends or maybe you just long for the days when you were little and your parents took you to Red Lobster on Sundays and you got to eat a shrimp cocktail and drink a Shirley Temple with extra cherries and it wasn't until years later that you realized Red Lobster sucks and your father hated going there. Or maybe that's just me.
What's your story?
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