Mama’s Story

I recall a Sunday family dinner at my German grandparents house, back when I was about four or five. There was a good amount of family there: I would guess about a dozen people, or so.

As she was prone to do, my grandmother (who my sister and I called Mama) came out of the blue with a story for all of us.

Mama told us about a friend of hers who had committed suicide. She hanged herself in the basement with her preschool kids in the house with her. The woman’s sister came by the house later that day and was greeted by her upset niece who told her:

“Mommy’s sick! She’s in the basement and her face is all purple.”

At this point, if I recall correctly, my youngest aunt (who would have been about eighteen at the time) got very emotional and began screaming at Mama about her story. My aunt is prone to emotional outbursts like that. Embarrassing.

Looking back, as anecdotes for family mealtime go, this one is hit and miss. It definitely gets points for originality: this is no humdrum, time-of-day, suburban bullshit. It lands, and it hits hard when it does. It utilizes powerful, if somewhat lurid, imagery. The purple face as rendered through the eyes of the child is like a lead hammer, delivered to full effect.

However, it has to be said that the setting was perhaps not the best venue for the performance. You know, a family dinner with preschool kids in attendance. Not to be overly sensitive and all, but that might have been a touch over the line.

Incidentally, at that time my sister and I were spending a lot of time alone with my grandmother at her house. But I am quite sure that her story was in no way intended as some kind of terroristic threat towards the family. It was just a quirky moment in a colorful family.

So ignore your aunt weeping in the kitchen and eat up the rest of your potatoes, kids. Then we’ll all have coffee and cake after a nap. Mama made streusel kuchen!

Man, her streusel kuchen is just the best!

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