We’d long since abandoned the confines of the dining room table, and we were all scattered around the living room in a post-Thanksgiving haze. The majority of the dishes had found their way into the fridge, but a few choice entrees still graced the table and the kitchen countertops – rolls and leftover biscuits, yams with a disappearing blanket of toasted marshmallows, and pies.
Apple pie, pumpkin pie, chocolate pie, two different varieties of pecan pie….
Even if you were so stuffed you couldn’t take another bite, there was always room for pie.
With bellies straining against shirts and the top button of pants discreetly undone, we lingered over our food, joking occasionally, trying not to laugh too hard – with bellies that full, who knew what might happen? A food coma is a delicious illness to have, and nobody did it better than my dad’s side of the family.
The only movement in the room, aside from the occasional heavy sigh, muffled belch, or lazy stretch, was from the younger children. Too young to have learned how to stuff themselves beyond measure, they were still wriggly and energetic. I had trapped one of my nephews between my knees, trying to contain his three year old energy long enough to help him finish his own small slice of pie. When I realized more of it was ending up on his hands and his face than it was in his mouth, I decided he’d had enough.
“C’mon, Kyle. Let’s go wash up.” I grabbed his dirty little hand and walked him over to the sink, hoisting him up with a groan and propping him up with my knee while I tried to do some damage control. He had apple pie everywhere – crumbs down the front of his shirt, sticky cinnamon goodness smeared over his soft cheek, and even a piece of crust lodged in his hair. He looked like a magazine ad, with his big blue eyes and golden curls, and he was sticky beyond belief.
By the time I’d finished cleaning him up there was water everywhere, and he was squirming and laughing. With a grunt I plopped him to the ground, grabbing his hand to lead him back into living room.
As his soft hand curled up in mine I felt a little something – glancing down, I realized that a teensy crumb from the apple pie had escaped my washing. Too lazy to walk over to the trash can to throw it away, I gave a shrug and popped it in my mouth.
What the heck? Since when was apple pie salty? I gave a cough, grabbed a napkin and spit the piece into it.
Suddenly, without any warning at all, my nephew burst into frantic tears. It was a genuine cry – and within seconds he had fat tears pouring down the sides of his cheek as he blindly tore out of my grasp and ran back into the living room. He was a sturdy, happy little boy who rarely cried, so I knew something must genuinely be wrong.
Concerned, I wadded the napkin up in my hand and chased after him.
“Becky, what happened?” A roomful of adults all stared at me.
“I don’t know,” I stammered, raising my voice to be heard over the grief-stricken, desolate howls. “I was just coming back from washing his hands, and he just started crying.”
My sister hugged Kyle close in concern, making soothing noises. “Shhh, Kyle. Shhhh, What’s wrong?”
Kyle buried his face into my sister’s arms, refusing to look at me. “Aunt Becky….” He sobbed.
“I didn’t do anything!” I insisted.
“Kyle…shhh… shhh…. What happened?”
“Shhh, shhh…. What? Stop crying and tell us. What happened? Why are you crying?”
“Aunt Becky ate my booger I was saving!” His huge blue eyes looked up at me in red-rimmed, three-year old fury. It was his booger – HIS to eat. Not mine. I was a cruel, evil, booger-stealing harpy of an aunt, and not to be trusted.
My mind flashed back to the salty bit I now held in my napkin, and I gagged.