How Daddy and my godfather were best friends as young men still eludes me. When I knew them both, there was nothing similar in either their approaches or attitudes toward life. Still, if opposites attract, then perhaps therein lay the explanation.
My godfather was Italian descent and worked as an accountant for Southern Pacific Railroad. My godmother worked at a meat packing factory, so she was never a stay-at-home housewife until retirement. They were married for as many years as my folks, but had raised no children of their own.
Because of different family commitments and schedules, it was seldom that the two couples actually spent much time together socially anymore. But on occasion, we’d be invited to their home for a Saturday dinner. Their invitation was special and we young ones were always included! Mom would dress us in our best clothes and wear a nice dress herself. Even Daddy wore a nice shirt and a sport coat for the occasion!
Fortunately, the two childhood friends married women who truly enjoyed each others’ company. Once we arrived, Mom spent time visiting in the kitchen. Theirs was one of the few kitchens in which my mother could actually remain “company”, sitting to enjoy her drink. My godmother was usually finishing up the salad.
Winnie and I were served Shirley Temples for our cocktails, and could choose to stay in the kitchen with Mom or move out front to the living room and listen to my godfather and Daddy going back and forth. During those evenings, three things were a given:
- By the middle of the second round of cocktails, the two men would already be at odds over the day’s political issues;
- The Italian dinner served would be exceptional; and
- Waiting for us on the coffee table were two brand new coloring books with boxes of Crayola crayons.
Each visit, the books were the same. The pictures to color were pen and ink illustrations of the sights and sounds found along the SP route. New boxes of crayons helped make coloring the familiar pictures bearable, but given the colored photos and topics, creativity was limited; orange groves would always be orange. So would the mountains always remain brown and grey, just like their color photograph counterparts included alongside each black and white page.
Ultimately, Daddy and my godfather would begin to run down. Before we left for home, my godmother would open her freezer and place some small ham steaks, sausages, and bacon from the meat plant in a bag for us to take home to enjoy.
At the end of the evening, we’d hop in the car for the short trip home. Most of the conversation was about how wonderful the night’s dinner had been! We in the back seat changed the subject by admitting to the folks just how tired we were of coloring oranges and train tracks. All Mom could do was giggle. Daddy was laughing too, adding that he’d noticed additional pencils, paper tablets, and other supplies his old friend had on hand. It was obvious to us all that Daddy was still disgusted from the evening’s political arguments.
Daddy was still shaking his head and cussing under his breath when he drove up our driveway…