- CRITTER TALK
- SCI/TECH/OTHER STUFF
My grandfather had a summer ritual of meeting his grandchildren at a soda fountain in Asbury Park called “Dukes”. It was across from the church, so after mass, the older cousins walked the younger ones to meet grandfather there. The first (and last) summer I was old enough to enjoy the trip to Dukes, I learned an important lesson.
Grandfather sat at the soda fountain counter waiting for his grandchildren to arrive. They scrambled to get the best seat. Once settled, grandfather pointed to a scrumptious tray of homemade chocolate cakes with whip cream filling. On my first Sunday there (when I was six years old), he looked right at me and said, “Carolina, when we meet here, we all have a soda and a Devil Dog together. But don’t tell your mother about the Devil Dog.” The older cousins didn’t react, but I sure did. As I ate that delightful Devil Dog cake, I wondered why it was called that. And I worried the reason grandfather didn’t want my mother to know we were eating them was because they were named after the devil himself!
The entire summer of Sundays went by with me having ambivalence about eating a cake named after the devil but also enjoying every last bite. Of course, I obeyed grandfather, and did not tell mother what we ate. But finally, my guilt overtook me, and I decided to confess to the priest about grandfather feeding us the devil’s cakes after church and how he didn’t want our mothers to know. The priest coughed loudly as he heard my confession. But looking back, I think he was actually stifling a laugh. He said, “My dear child, I doubt those cakes are named after THE devil. And, have you asked your grandfather why you can’t tell your mother?” I told him I had not so I would after church that very day.
When I arrived at Duke’s, I rushed to the closest stool to grandfather and told him what I had confessed to the priest. Grandfather had the strangest look on his face when I asked him why he didn’t want my mother to know we ate Devil Dogs. He laughed as hard as I ever heard him laugh and told me it was because the cakes are very fattening and he would get in trouble if mother knew he was giving them to us before lunch. I nodded as I reached for my delicious treat. Grandfather then loudly declared, “From this day on, we will call them AngeloDolci (Angel Cakes) instead of Devil Dogs because of the fluffy white cream inside.” Grandfather then said there was a lesson to learn from this. He said, “Carolina, if you had just asked me WHY I didn’t want your mother to know about the Devil Dogs, you would not have worried enough to confess this to a priest.” He added, “When we don’t have all the information we need, our minds make up crazy stories and sometimes we even imagine the worse. So, always find out what you need to know so that doesn’t happen to you again. Do you understand, Carolina?” I said, “Yes grandfather; so, then I want to ask you something else today so my mind doesn’t make up another story. What does it mean to play the numbers like you do here at Duke’s?” Grandfather was speechless and we never went to Dukes again. Instead, grandfather came up with a new summer Sunday ritual after church: Bocci Ball on the boardwalk! But that will be another post.
Many years later, I learned the reason grandfather stopped taking us to Dukes. The numbers game I had asked him about was also known as Italian Lottery (an illegal game). The player tries to pick three numbers to match those that will be drawn the following day. The gambler (in this case, grandfather) places his bet with a bookie at a place that acts as a betting parlor, such as Dukes in this story. So, grandfather was just human after all. But I digress.
So the lesson: Get the information you need so that your mind doesn’t fill in the missing pieces with untruths; use the devil cakes as a reminder for that; and…..be careful what you do in front of an inquisitive six year old.