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Uncle Tony is not my real uncle. He’s my cousins’ great uncle, but we celebrate Christmas Eve together as one big not quite Italian-American family every year in his brother’s (my cousins’ grandfather’s) basement. Phew, got that? It’s quite a mouthful.
Tony’s pushing 90, but by all appearances he is a classic bull, or better yet, Italian Stallion, in a china shop. You don’t mess with Tony G. The man still rises every morning at 5:30 AM and dresses in a suit and tie to take off for the law office that bears his name; he gets a kick out of locking up bad guys and an even bigger kick bragging about it. This is why both he and I were shocked and awed when this past Christmas Eve I slapped Tony’s hand, demanding that he, “Put down that cookie!”
I was a naughty little culinary elf last December upon being a gifted a couple ounces of the greatest, greenest homegrown pot butter on the planet. Before heading over to the Buffalo basement I’ve come to equate with the sort of nostalgic holiday cheer reserved for Bing Crosby Christmas albums and eggnog that comes straight from the carton into my frosted (read: freezer burned) Sabre’s hockey mug, I whipped up a batch of “herb” infused Hello Dollies and slipped them onto my Mamma’s Christmas cookie tray.
My thinking? No one ever eats the Hello Dollies. Of course, I had forgotten about The Stallion’s appetite for all things chocolate. Such a sickly sweet, indulgent combo of condensed milk, chocolate chips and coconut flakes never there was, and hitherto on Christmases past, never had been devoured. After stuffing oneself silly with Grandma G’s annual menu of Buffalo chicken wing dip and hand-rolled, oven-baked manicotti, there’s no room left for cookies. This is an unbutton or un-belt your pants kinda meal. God help us! It’s delicious, but not so nutritious.
The plan was to treat my cousins to an early, edible Christmas pressie and “stone” ourselves for a night of family sing-alongs. Uncle Tony’s plan to cap the evening with a Hello Dolly and sit at the player piano miming Bing’s greatest hits for an audience for near-def elderly and the infants squirming in their arms, could’ve got a hell of a lot funnier had I let him indulge. As I write this, I still giggle at the prospect of a potted Uncle Tony settling in to a not so silent night back at the old folks home, struck with an insatiable case of the munchies. Memorable a scene as this may have seemed, my conscience couldn’t let it happen. Uncle Tony has a big heart, and I couldn’t risk endangering it. So slap his hand I did, and I got a taste of his big mouth in return.
Later that night, donning my white mink and red Santa hat in the back seat of my cousin’s car, we recounted the story while passing the pipe and reimagining all the trouble a stoned Tony G. could have gotten himself into. It wasn’t exactly a Hallmark Christmas scene, but hey, I’m a Cashew who’s never claimed to be a saint, though that night I did save Uncle Tony from hopped-up holidaze hijinks.
So you tell me. Was saving Uncle Tony naughty or nice? Should I have expected coal in my stocking or presents under the tree the next morning?
I’m happy to report that when I eventually woke up on Christmas day, I was treated to a six-pack of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups Santa had left with my name on it…the perfect hangover cure, or penance, depending upon your persuasion.