Had a vivid memory yesterday, probably dredged up by Mark’s older brother’s memory of how his little brother hid candy bars from his two older brothers and how quickly he ate his meals at restaurants, lest somebody else get a morsel off his plate.
My father was over six feet tall and carried up to forty or fifty pounds of excess weight most of the time I knew him. His younger brother Paul was quite a bit smaller, and fairly trim. My father, at least once, told my sister and me the story of taking as much of his little brother’s food as he could get. He told the story with a chuckle.
I didn’t stop to think, a middle class kid when I heard the story, that my father and my uncle were probably frequently hungry growing up in “grinding poverty” (the phrase my father always used to describe it, the family’s desperation corroborated by his cousin Gene) during the Depression. My father would finish his food, turn to his brother, who ate more slowly, and ask him for another bite.
” ‘Paul, Paul…’ I’d say and hold out my hand to him and he’d very reluctantly break off a tiny crumb of food and hand it over. He didn’t want to, you know, but he always gave me something.”
As I told this to Sekhnet last night I remembered something else, the walk back from Carvel with my younger sister.
Our parents would give us some change to go buy ice cream at the Carvel two short blocks and one long one from our house. Carvel had soft serve machines and we’d generally each get a cone, sometimes plain sometimes with sprinkles (my sister was partial to the multicolored ones) and sometimes dipped in molten chocolate that would instantly become a lovely, slightly soft, thin chocolate shell (the “Brown Bonnet”).
We’d lap up the delicious ice cream as we walked that first long block. As we turned the first corner the swirl of ice cream in mine would be flattened down to the cone, a few bites and I was finished. My sister ate more slowly, turning the cone methodically to lick away the drips, savoring her ice cream. I’d always ask her for a slurp of her cone. When she resisted I mocked her as a “saver”. She’d reluctantly hand over the cone, protesting the unfairness (and she had a point) and I’d take a slurp.