I was born. I suffered.
I suffered some more, and hopefully,
I won't die a painful death.
This is my life.

Chestnuts and Pepsi

ChestnutsThe holidays are upon us. One very lucid memory of The Old Lady I have is the fall and winter time ritual of eating chestnuts and watching xmas specials on TV. Now a chestnut is small brown soft fruit that you cook in the oven, or roast over an open fire. You know the song. I guess eating chestnuts is sort of an North Eastern or Italian thing. I noticed yesterday when I was out shopping, there were little bags of chestnuts on a shelf that said "Italian Chestnuts" on them. They were actually small and pathetic looking. It must be a Virginia screw-up. Importing the wrong kind, no doubt.

Around Halloween, The Old Lady would pick up a giant bag of chestnuts from the bulk barrel at the local Price-Chopper, the fall time is the only time of year when you can buy them. The Old Lady would normally spend about $200 a week on groceries. She'd get on pounds of jewelry and makeup and have The Old Man or one of the sons to drive her to the store. Yeah, she never learned to drive! I used to have nightmares that she was driving. I would be in the back seat and all I could see was the outside world just spinning around us as we were careening down the road.

Usually, It's The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, would be the first holiday TV special on for the season. The Old Lady got her bag of chestnuts, baking pan, and knife ready. She sat on the couch and proceeded to slice the chestnut shell. You have to put a slice in them so they don't explode in the oven. Three hundred degrees and thirty minutes later, the pan full of boiling-hot chestnuts was ready. Chestnuts are best while they are hot. The trick was to be able to handle them in this boiling state. This requires you to crack and peel open the hard shells with your bare hands. This act was no problem for The Old Man. His hands were like iron covered in rawhide. If you were very lucky, you would only get a few bad chestnuts. A bad chestnut is one that is hard, green and moldy on the inside. Normally, they are light brown and soft.

The Old Lady would crack open a couple of Pepsi's, I grew up on Pepsi by the way, and the show would start. Ah good times. This ritual would repeat for the xmas shows; Rudolph, Merry Christmas Charlie Brown, and all of the other misc. stop-motion xmas specials.

I made a point to carry on this sacred tradition with my kids. Well I tried. As it turned out, my ex and daughter hated chestnuts, and my son, of course was deathly allergic to all tree nuts. Ok, well I did give the ex a rotten one once. Hence, I usually ended up eating them all. Luckily, chestnuts are very low in fat. But, I tried make this as an indelible memory in my kids' minds as the times of eating chestnuts with The Old Lady are in mine. I can only hope this is the case.

This year, if I do find any normal chestnuts down here in the South, I'll think of The Old Lady as I burn and cut my fingers open on the shells. I might even drink a Pepsi-diet of course.