“Don’t Toby Me”

Chocolate Cake

Image by alachia via Flickr

In our house, we have our own kind of language. Our children, we always said, needed to take English As A Second Language when they were younger. Now? It’s a lost cause. My husband and I use a combination of words and phrases we learned from both Viennese and German parents, some real and mostly made up. My husband and I have been married for twenty-two years, we are also guilty of making up many expressions that some might consider “creative.”

I kid you not, my brother-in-law (on my husband’s side) actually published a little dictionary, for amusement, for one Thanksgiving dinner  many years ago. It was the hit of the night. People (mostly my sister) wrote to him begging him to do another edition or to add a phrase or correct one that was there. That dictionary with photos of all of us when our children were tiny is still talked about today. It was so special that there never can be a second edition, that’s how much we love it.

A bit of many different languages are included. Our poor kids used to ask us if a certain word was real or not. There’s really no way of telling but when in doubt, it’s probably not real. However, there is one expression that is famous throughout the family and has extended to close friends, acquaintances and most probably strangers. It started way back in the eighties when my then best friend and I went to dinner at an Italian restaurant in Boston. After finishing our meals, we looked forward, as always, to the main reason we went out to dinner: dessert. I remember that they had a special dessert that was called Cappuchino pie, a mixture of chocolate and coffee, that my old friend loved.  I ordered something else, I believe it was a chocolate layer cake with whipped cream, or as we used to say “real” whipped cream.

Wanting to take a break after dinner since I was getting full, I went to the bathroom AFTER our dessert came but BEFORE I took a bite. When I came back, not two minutes later, there was a BITE of MY chocolate cake missing. That’s right, you heard me. She had tasted my dessert BEFORE I tasted it and that, to me, was inexcusable. I was looking forward to that first bite, yet she ate it while I was in the bathroom. She didn’t ask permission (would so not be granted) she just ate it. Thus, her name being Toby, the expression was born. It lives on to this day and it will always be alive…..

It’s only been about thirty-one years, yet we continue to use and enjoy this expression.  My niece, many years ago, was with a friend of hers and her friend attempted to try something that my niece ordered but hadn’t tasted yet. My niece proclaimed in a loud voice “Don’t Toby Me!” She then explained what that meant to her friend and the phrase continues to be used and enjoyed in various settings by people probably unbeknownst to us.

The friendship didn’t last but NOT for that reason.  Sometimes, many years after an old friendship is over you can still appreciate a tiny detail, a golden nugget of a phrase, way past the expiration date of the friendship. Watch your dining companion closely. If he/she attempts to steal something off your plate BEFORE you have tried it, stop them.  Keep an eye on their fork  and be prepared. If they do it once, they will never do it again and yes, they will learn. The miracle continues. You’re welcome.

p.s. Jerry Seinfeld could have done a whole show on this. Just sayin…..

Advertisements

An Honest Thanksgiving

Tender, juicy roast turkey - the main attracti...

Image via Wikipedia

It will be Thanksgiving in just a few days. While we all are looking forward to moist turkey and my husband’s famous stuffing made with mushrooms and apples, raisins and water chestnuts, I have a small request. Please be kind and sensitive to one another. I don’t worry about what things will taste like; I know they will all be delicious. The only thing I worry about, quite honestly, is drama. Holidays can bring up all sorts of feelings: loss, bereavement, jealousy, resentment, sadness, and despair. Old wounds start to feel new, grievances and perceived injustices start to bubble to the surface. Before we dig in to the mashed potatoes my mother made (cough, cough, bought from a restaurant), and cranberry sauce let us think about each other first. During dessert let us try to rejoice in each others’ company instead of waiting for the air to get thick with tension as dense as brown gravy.

This year, for the first year I have actually mentioned to several members of the family that I am asking for a “drama-free” Thanksgiving. I have chronic pain, my husband has been feeling sad because of  lack of work, please try to remember this.  Work  alongside us, tell us things will be alright eventually. Life is not perfect but Thanksgiving should be about what we are grateful for, not what we lack.

I don’t want to hear sullen complaints about the food or the appetizers and I’m happy to cook and clean, taste, stir, serve and clean-up. I will not be happy with arguments, whispered secrets said too loudly and explosive outbursts. Please just leave your coats and any agendas at the door and please, please think before you speak. Be courteous to everyone else. Don’t brag, insult, or be insensitive to other people’s needs.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my family and friends. May it be peaceful, filled with great warmth, love, gratitude and great food. I am thankful for all of you.  Now, let us eat.