I’ve been spilling a lot of beans on the family over the past several weeks. Tonight, I spill the nuts.
We were all so young. Little Bro was just 5. I was merely 9. Dad was only 45. A friend of Dad’s invited us to his Christmas party. Dad insisted that we be gracious guests and bring a present for the host. We had, in classic family-of-Yajeev fashion, been running severely late, so the present had to be a re-gifting. Dad frantically surveyed the house for a suitable token of appreciation for the kind invitation. Most of the hunt took place in the kitchen, enabling him to multitask; he could snack while searching. Finally, he spied an object that would satisfy both of his needs: a festive tin of mixed nuts already topped with a red Christmas bow. It had arrived in that day’s mail as a holiday present for our family.
“But, Daddy, that present is for us,” my brother pleaded, troubled by our father’s diversion of a gift meant to be consumed by our family.
“It’s okay,” Dad reasoned with Little Bro, removing the handwritten Christmas note from the original sender. “The person who gave it to us would want us to make someone else happy with these nuts,” he rationalized. I nodded, knowingly.
“No, Daddy, he wanted us to eat them.” Lil Bro felt a sharp pang of conscience, despite being allergic to nuts.
I don’t think it was to appease Little Bro’s pleading, but Dad decided that it would be appropriate if we ate just a few of the nuts. Dad hurriedly ushered us into the car. I sat in the front with Dad. Little Bro sat in the back holding the tin of cashews, walnuts, peanuts, and almonds. We had barely turned out of the driveway when Dad reached his arm behind his own seat, fumbling for the tub of nuts on Little Bro’s lap. “Honey, open the nuts.”
“It’s okay,” Dad repeated. “I just want two cashews.” Little Bro reluctantly snapped open the tin-o-nuts, and Dad groped air behind him with his right hand, erratically swerving the steering wheel with his left. Finally, his paw found the reservoir of protein-rich nutmeat. His hand swished through the nutty amalgam until he could retrieve the desired handful-sized quantity of cashews et al.
We had almost arrived at our friend’s house. “Just a few more nuts,” Dad said having finished his first fistful. He thrust his arm back into Little Bro’s personal space. Instead of finding his hand in an oasis of salty, dry proteinaceious goodness, his anatomical snuff box collided with the tin can, sending the mixture flying into the air. Nuts landed on the floor, on the seats, on Little Bro’s lap. Dad scooped a walnut off of Little Bro’s knee and popped it through his oral orifice.
Dad turned onto the street of the party and pulled the car to the side of the road. He jumped out of the car, and beckoned for me to do the same. “Quick, put the nuts back in the tub,” Dad instructed. The three of us engaged in a mad nut-scramble, picking almonds from the cracks between the seats and wiping hairs off of peanuts recovered from the floor before depositing them back into the decorative holiday tin. When all was said and done, with nuts lost to the hidden recesses of the car and of my father, we had filled the container to about two-thirds original capacity.
We piled back into the car, and Dad drove the rest of the way to the party. We were clearly the final guests to arrive. “I’m so glad you could make it,” the host greeted us, glancing at his watch. “Oh, you didn’t have to buy me a present,” he added, reaching for the tinseled tin.
“Actually, we didn’t buy—” Little Bro started before Dad put him in a playful faux headlock, effectively muffling the remainder of Little Bro’s sentence.
“Thanks for the nuts,” the host said, cracking the tin open and retrieving a few for a quick bite. “Delicious,” he uttered.
Little Bro couldn’t contain himself: “Those were the nuts we picked up off the floor of our car.”
Dad gently stepped on Little Bro’s foot. “No, those were the other nuts that we picked up off the floor. We threw those nuts—”*
“No, Daddy, those were the nuts that we got as a gift and that you spilled in the car when you were eating them. We picked them up off the floor and put them back into the container, Daddy. That container,” he concluded, pointing at the tin held by the host.
There was silence. Dad and the host stood in frozen smiles. I looked from face-to-face-to-face. I turned to Little Bro and warned him: “You are in so much trouble.”
* Please see footnote from previous post.