"An Hyphenated-American Eve"
type story here After the eating of the six fishes - though it was supposed to be seven for each sacrament - but the mother, hater of fish odors, just happened to miscount which sent her husband into a superstitious frenzy the whole last week of December that would have him attending church every morning depositing an envelope before he went to work to ward off the evil eye.
The evening had began with the worst of bad omens when his wife's mother from Brooklyn had been deposited by her son Deo begging them to watch her for just an hour or so since he was going to New Haven to teach a "farmer" pizza guy to make real New York style "pie". This little leaving off became hours that had her sitting among them on the sacred night of the eating of no meats. She sat at the head of the table which was the father's traditional seat of honor. He did not object afraid a "forty eight" would erupt like it did in Europe in Eighteen forty-eight when peasants tried to get rid of their monarchies that were perpetuating serfdom along with the heads of churches saying it was a good thing since "the meek" were in due time going to inherit the earth and heaven as well if they were totally subservient to the will of their leaders; instead, the father gave his wife many many dirty looks that manifested the anger he was feeling inside but always making sure his sainted mother-in-law - the inventor of the "maledetto" - did not see him.
The father felt sorry for his last born and his favorite Johnny since it was his birthday and with his grandmother lurking about was putting that celebration in jeopardy also.
Johnny remained cautiously optimistic thinking if he complained his two older brothers Leny One N and Tommy TomTom would taunt him even more by not only calling him a spoiled brat behind their father's back but whispering to him that basards really didn't own a birthday.
Johnny's oldest sister, Tina of The Troy, thought it was unfair that his birthday should be acknowledged while theirs were almost ignored. Johnny would learn, in this place called Burywater where they had moved to from The East Bronx a few years before, the more he heard a person saying over and over that something unfair was going on that that person was going to do many unfair things unto others. It was Tina, he found out from his sister Alice who often protected him from her siblings, who attempted to suffocate him, in a happy way, with the limbs of the pine tree that his father had placed him under
after telling all his siblings that Johnny born the day before Christ was going to be their only gift that Great Depression year.
After an hour with his parents pretending nothing special was going to happen, the cake came out carried by Alice as their father counted the candles on it loudly as "Mamasu" - and it was he the father who had invented that term telling all his children it was a genuine gesture of affection never telling them the word really meant "her mother" - repeated the numbers with her tiger face on; puffing up her cheeks which made her eyes surrounded in a murky gray haze even more pronounced.
The father lit them - being reminded not to set the birthday boy on fire by his great nemesis - while the others giggled
the birthday song to a dishearten mumbling ending.
Johnny blew the candles out pretending not to see the name "Joanie" on the top of it. Every year Alice would make a similar mistake.
When his brothers, Tina and Mamasu kept calling him Joanie, Alice explained she must have again taken the wrong cake from the downtown Burywater bakery.
After the eating of cake was finished, the father suggested they play "seven and a half", an old Roman soldier's card game, so the time would go quicker to midnight when they would open the presents that awaited them in honor of the gifts from the Magi who came just a bit after midnight to visit the baby Jesus.
Mamasu pushed the cards off the table introducing the game "fifty-two pickup" - saying in her most shrillest of voices: "I want to play brisk or sweep!"
With that said, all the little grandchildren did nervous twitches of expectations with visions of the great Santa Claus dancing on their heads.
Fifteen minutes before midnight, Johnny's father disappeared to down the cellar and after fifteen minutes or so a loud thumping could be heard coming up the stairs, since their home had no fireplace, and the door was flung opened making appear a five foot eight inches figure wearing a black coat, a bag over a face with scary holes in about the appropriate places in it and a gunny sack draped over a shoulder. Only after the person took the bag from his face did the children laugh before going into deep cries of disappointment.
"Look it's a money grabber hyphenated Santa!" Mamasu said while throwing shells of nuts at his head.
Singing of carols could be heard emanating from other homes as the father kept hitting his head with a closed fist making the tune of jingle bells miraculously flood the room full of tenseness. END 8-10-05