Lunch Money


I don’t do sick well and for the last week I have been as sick as I have ever been with flu followed by infected sinuses. Double yuk!

In one of those half aware fever driven times I crawled into my sick bed ( wearing my sick jammies, those magic jammies that I only wear when I’m not well and which I hope will impart some healing properties) and sunk down into my pillow and felt that warm, primal, all will be OK feeling that has it’s roots in childhood memories. Memories of my room, my bed, my mom taking care of me, and I free associated into the following:

I was twelve or thirteen. My Mom and I would travel one Friday a month to an old family friends house for an evening of "mad canasta". A card game more complex than I can now remember to explain but kind of a cross between canasta, gin and pinochle. We would play for nickels and dimes and mom and I each had a small stash of change we would horde for the game. More than the game this was something that my mom and I shared. A night out together. The game required four not three players and I became moms’ partner. Not child, but playing partner. It was my introduction into the world of adults and a special time for mom and I.

The friends, Merle and Vera, were previous neighbors and my mom had kept the friendship alive long after we had moved to another city after my fathers death. Merle was as much a gentle-man as I have ever known. He was strong but kind, wise but earthy, and never ever talked down to me. He had taught pilots to fly during world war two, traveled extensively and shared many fascinating stories that always held me in awe. Vera, a short perky woman of Spanish, not Mexican she was always quick to remind, decent. She was the perfect hostess, homemaker and wife. It was obvious that they cared for each other deeply and I always felt comfortable in their well kept upper middle class home on the hill.

The evening would always fly by. Lots of small talk about this and that and lots of witticisms about the play or the cards or life in general. Merle would smoke his Viceroy cigarettes, lit by the coolest Zippo lighter with it’s WWII Army Air Force emblem on it, and nickels and dimes would change hands. More importantly we talked and laughed and shared the evening. Somewhere into the evening we would break and Vera would produce cake or pie or some other wonderful treat and the card playing stopped and the feasting began with hot coffee or milk and more discussion and laughter. The refreshments finished we would delve into another round and continue until the wee hours of the morning until brain dead from counting tricks and sorting hands we would call it a night. Nickels and dimes back into the pouches, we would gloat over the winnings and moan over the losses and say good night.

On the way home in our land barge of a 59 Chevy Bel-Air, I would talk mom into stopping at an all night burger joint that had as a specialty, "Boasted Chicken Basket". The specialty consisted of chicken cooked as I have never again been able to find, french fries made from real fresh potatoes and a hamburger bun buttered and toasted on the burger grill. I would devour the meal on the twenty or so mile ride home while mom and I talked. Can’t exactly tell you what we talked about, we just talked.

We would arrive home around two or three and the house would be still, cold and feel a little alien. I never felt right moving about the house after midnight. I would go quietly upstairs to my room, get ready for bed and crawl in between the covers and sink down into my pillow and feel that warm, primal, all will be OK feeling.

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