Friday, January 11, 2013

    I could never really understand what we were doing there, or in any place like it. I knew one was supposed to go away from the city in the summer. I knew people went to "resorts". People fixed themselves in resorts. There were Edgartown families. Northeast families. Certainly Homestead families. My father and mother seemed rather to move through these places like émigré royalty, the innkeepers (and guests) vaguely conscious that somebody unusual was among them but not quite sure what currency they would be paid in, or when; my mother and father diffident, remote, not so much bored as disconnected, and with small gift for camouflage. I can remember us gliding into that wretched Homestead dining room each evening - it was one of those American resorts where the dining room was only open between some ridiculous hours like 5:30 and 7:30. My father dressed in dark evening suit, well dressed, too well dressed, a boutonniere, a cane. My mother really very handsome. Hair up high. Jewels. My sister and I trailing along, each conscious of the Detroit and Memphis eyes on all of us. And then would come the dinner scene: my father disdaining the relish tray. Each evening my father would disdain the relish tray, would look at it in fact, held in the hands of some hopeful moon-faced Virginia girl, some girl whom I would have paid money to like me - would look at it as if it were some joke being played on him, which in some ways of course it was, a joke to which he had been an accomplice (which must have made it worse). My mother (very regal, but trying to be creative): What are those little things in red? The waitress (not very bright, but trying to please; never run into this kind of rum crowd before): They're candied crab apples, ma'am. They come from right around Covington. A lot of the guests . . . My father (as if waking up): Candied crab apples? For dinner? I should certainly hope not! My mother: You've never tried one, Dikran. My father: I don't intend to. (Smiling sweetly, like a cougar, at the poor girl) Can you bring us an Old-Fashioned and a whisky right away? The waitress: Oh, I'm sorry sir. I'm only in charge of the relish tray. My father: Etc., etc. He and my mother would complain their way through dinner.

- Michael J. Arlen

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