Sunday, June 9, 2013

Dubious Backgrounds

            Mother and I were sitting in the Solarium and the pitiful remnants of breakfast were on the Sheraton table before us.

            “I must admit, Alfred,” said Mother, “that French bread does make the very finest French Toast.”

            “That makes sense, Mother,” said I, “after all the French invented French Toast.”  I paused, “But come to think of it there is some suggestion that it has also been called Gypsy Toast.”

            “Gypsy Toast, Alfred?” said Mother with an obvious shiver, “I certainly hope not.  The Gypsies are absolutely awful.  My cousin Angelo told me this morning that they have been having trouble with Gypsy pickpockets in Palermo.  He was at an Eagles game at the Stadio Renzo Barbera when an unfortunate Gypsy tried to pick his pocket.”

            With that Mother actually sniggered, “That was an exceptionally stupid thing to do,” she said.  “Men of respect don’t put up with stunts like that.”

            “Angelo?” I asked, somewhat alarmed.  Angelo Talliaferro was not one of my favourite people.  There is a reason why Mother’s family changed their name from Talliaferro to Toliver.  Some of those old country connections are just a little challenging.  Mother says that he’s just a respectable insurance man, but I think that’s like a rainstorm selling flood insurance.

“Why was Angelo calling?” I asked cautiously.

            “Oh, it’s nothing, Alfred,” said Mother.  “It’s just that he’s going to visit Dallas next Wednesday.  He said he had a little business to take care of with Carlo Civello and he thought it would be nice to get in touch with family in the evening.”

            “Well, that’s awkward Mother,” said I.  Wednesday is our Bible Study at the Whittingtons.”

            “Yes, I know, Alfred!” said Mother triumphantly, “That’s why I invited him to come to the Bible Study that evening.  I’m sure Grace Whittington wouldn’t mind.”

            “But, Mother, Angelo at the Whittingtons?  He’ll never fit in.  There are some people who are socially acceptable, and some who definitely are not.  What will the Whittingtons think of us?”  I should have kept my mouth shut.  I knew as soon as I opened it that I was heading for trouble, and far be it from Mother not to oblige me.

            “Alfred, she snapped with fire in her eyes, “Angelo is my family, and my family background is no worse than yours.  Your grandmother was a Campbell, and inviting a Talliaferro to our Bible Study is not nearly as dangerous as inviting a Campbell to spend the night with the McDonalds in Glencoe.  After all Angelo is not going to murder us in our beds like the Campbells did to the McDonalds.”

            Well, I must admit that she had me there, and I was deeply embarrassed.  After all, I fell in love with Mother and married her knowing very well that one side of her family was difficult.  I pushed back my chair from the table and took out my meerschaum pipe and tamped some Captain Black in it.   Pipe smoking is not a habit but a hobby and provides a good delaying gambit.  Our bishop smokes Captain Black, so Mother finds it quite acceptable even though she doesn’t like the smell of my cigars.

            “Mother,” said I.  “I humbly apologize.  I hadn’t thought it through. You are quite right and we shouldn’t be ashamed of either of our backgrounds.”

            “That’s perfectly alright, Alfred,” said Mother with a smirk. “Angelo won’t come anyway.  He said, ‘What the hell would I do at a Bible Study?’”

            “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him.  2 And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, "This man receives sinners and eats with them." Luke 15:1-2.  

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