The second day I really wanted to write, if only briefly, of the feast of St Denis of Paris, the proto-cephalophore, the cephalophore referred to when it becomes incumbent in conversation to explain the cephalophoric phenomenon. Unlike my mother (see below) I have favorites, and St Denis is my favorite cephalophore.
Then my mother gave me her shopping list, which included 2 jars of Major Grey’s Chutney. (Have I mentioned my recent sojourn at the parental home to spend some quality time with the Aged P’s?) And she underscored that it must be the traditional Major Gray’s chutney and not any of the newfangled chutneys now available. Got the point. She bemoaned the quart bottles that she used to get, back in day, bottles so large and specific that they required a special long handled spoon always referred to reverentially as The Chutney Spoon. At the market I looked and looked but could not find the MGC. Finally I asked someone and he pointed to the bottles directly in front of me. He said, “Now it’s called Colonel Grey’s - he got a promotion.” I looked blankly at him and back at the bottle, which still said Major Grey. “That was a joke,” he explained to the halfwit in the aisle.
Back at the house I was putting the groceries away. In the big cabinet I saw two bottles of the exact same Major Gray’s chutney. And behind them I saw 8 more bottles.
Later, Mom told me that this was a European trait, this hoarding, this fear of running out. I don’t exactly follow since 1. Her European mother didn’t hoard anything, and 2. Mom never actually lived in Europe (Egypt is NOT Europe).
Another trait she has attributed to Europeans – but this is one she strenuously asserts she does not share – is parental favoritism. She often tells of a trip they took in the early 60’s when Theo Herbert’s wife, of Courtrai, Belgium, upon learning that my mother had 5 children, asked which was her favorite. My mother expressed Horreur!! Shock! Of course she didn’t have favorites! She loved them all equally and the same. She couldn’t imagine favoring one child over another. And so on.
While explaining why all this chutney soothes her anxious heart, she mentions that all her mustards are in the cellar. ALL her mustards.
Aside from the fact that she occasionally forgets just how many chutneys she has stashed away, my mother is the world’s most organized human being. She is also the planet’s premier labeler.
The bottom drawer of a chest upstairs is neatly labeled “Lingerie de RMB/MBL” and inside are perfectly folded slips and negligees. Attached to a long silk nightgown is a square piece of paper reading: “Nightgown RB had made by Syrian nuns for use on my honeymoon -1951”.
An even more remarkable gown bears the label: “Nightgown! Belonged to Madeleine de Couville or her sister Jeanne, the one who died tragically.”
(It is the exclamation point I love.)
But it is no longer the feast of St Denis or Dionysus of Paris, who was cruelly beheaded in AD 258 at Montmartre (hence its name, Hill of Martyrs), and then retrieved his severed head from the Seine and carried it to his place of burial. So – having been sidetracked by the wonders of maternal executive functions - I will not be mentioning him and his many iconic images in art, bearing his head.
Tomorrow’s highlights will include bucolic descriptions of the former ammunition depot, home to the Navy’s first nuclear depth charge; a relating of my pathetic attempt to explain the Trojan War to Dad; and a partial list of excellent books discovered in the cellar ( with allusions to a discussion of the difference between a cellar and a basement), one of which was The World’s Best Jokes – from 1936, which can only lead one to believe that the state of humor has improved in the intervening 73 years.