Christmas 1978

It never occurred to me that Lobster & Shrimp Fra Diovolo might not constitute a “real” Christmas dinner. It also never occurred to me that it was an especially Italian-American thing, either — if anything, it seemed appropriately “fancy.” But I never really paid much attention to Christmas dinner anyway, it being an unwanted interruption of my toy ecstasy when I just as easily have taken a plate upstairs to my room. I bet I liked it, though (the shrimp, anyway): along with predilections towards thick-framed glasses and melodic yawning, I inherited from my dad an appetite for really spicy foods, something I know I got from consciously imitating him. Of course, I could never keep up. At five or so, I tried one of his breakfast grapefruits, finding it a completely impenetrable eating experience now matter how much liquid sugar I put on the damned thing. Much later, on a mid-eighties trip to Washington D.C., he and his future wife took me to my first Indian restaurant; for me, it was an obstacle course of taste-bud death-by-misadventure and rivers of mucous — him, no problem. Getting back to Christmas, there were a couple times when I stayed with the adults long during the dessert trying to finish an espresso, just like the adults at the table were having. Yeah, I would finish it, but taste-wise, I couldn’t see the point of it. Much too bitter. There was a grand upshot, though. A little later (but still a kid), emboldened by the times I had espresso, I would take every opportunity during my day camp’s “Parents’ Day” to ostentatiously take some free coffee at the industrial urns placed at strategic locations throughout the grounds, thereby freaking out both parents and counselors. That was fun, a little. Probably nobody would blink now if they saw such a thing.

Judging from yesterday’s picture, this year’s Christmas table seated at least thirteen, and some subsequent Christmases probably had even more when even more folks from my mom’s side of the family joined in. Yet to my parents’ (and grandparents’) credit, we never had a separate “children’s table” at special occasions, at least as far as I can remember.