Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving - Enjoy Cold Comfort by Kathleen Gerard - And Give ThanksC

Great-Aunt Minnie was the last of a dying breed— literally. She had never married and had long outlived every member of her immediate family. I was an only child and, with both of my parents now gone, Aunt Minnie, who was actually my father’s aunt, was a last vestige of an immediate blood-line family for me, and vice-versa. I found myself clinging to her more and more tightly as the years went on. 
She was like a rare and treasured antique, one that required continued care and maintenance, and I was eager to help preserve her longevity— even if it meant I’d have to muster more patience than readily available to my good nature. 
Aunt Minnie was a woman of great contradiction. One part of her— the part that was never without her Smartphone and had a propensity for blogging— was updated for the 21st century. 
While the other part was steeped in the tenets of The Old World. It would’ve been nice, and it certainly would’ve made my life a lot easier, if the two worlds could’ve overlapped someplace in between evoking Aunt Minnie’s belief in contemporary American supermarkets. “Too many germs,” she’d told me. “And the way the world is today, I can’t afford to take any chances. And I want to know who I’m buying from, so if they foul things up, I can go back and hit the stu-nod over the head with my cane...”

Cold Comfort

By Kathleen Gerard

I believe Thanksgiving, more than any other holiday, is used to bring families least that is the way it was in my family in early years, while my mother was still living... But what if you only have two family members left to celebrate? Would you still plan a big event? Well you can be sure that Aunt Minnie would, even if she was now in her mid-nineties!

Gateway arch over Atwells
 Avenue. La Pigna sculpture,
 a traditional symbol
 of welcome, abundance
 and quality,
hangs from the center.

“Be back in an hour,”
Aunt Minnie said, handing
me a shopping list longer
 than my arm.
 “I don’t want to be late
for my appointment
at the chiropodist.”
Picture it... It's coming up toward Thanksgiving weekend and Aunt Minnie's only living relative, photojournalist Anna Maria, "A.M." LaRusa has come to Federal Hill, a small area which is mostly Italian-American, in Rhode Island to share the holiday with her only living relative... 

Like Sophia from the Golden Girls, Aunt Minnie holds to traditional ways of preparing using the individual small shops that provide specialties, rather than going to the large one-stop-shopping most of us use... Of course, A.M. is not thrilled about her latest mission: to go to these various shops, walking and pushing a shopping cart, get everything needed and be back in one hour...

I might have only been 32 years-old, but I had lived long enough to realize that Aunt Minnie must’ve been doing something right to have lived, relatively healthy, on the planet for nine and a half decades, long before the advent of hand sanitizer, maybe even antibiotics. But her resistance to the concept of one-stop shopping would have me traipsing all over Federal Hill, a tiny enclave nestled in downtown Providence, Rhode Island where Aunt Minnie had lived— in the same house— her whole life. I’d have to hurry, as her list would have me stopping at little old-fashioned grocers and specialty stores tucked on side-streets in order to gather what she needed to assemble her Thanksgiving Day feast… and all in an hour. Not an easy task.
I had been on a photo assignment in Iraq, so I hadn’t been back to see Aunt Minnie for almost a three month stretch. It was a longer absence than usual. As I dragged her grudging shopping cart behind me along Atwells Avenue, brittle fall leaves scuffling under my feet, I took note of how much the neighborhood had changed throughout the years. When I was a kid, Federal Hill was a small, repressed community, home to poor, immigrant Italians proudly sporting red, white and green flags everywhere.
But in the years that I had studied photography at R.I.S.D, aka the Rhode Island School of Design— and stopped over to have dinner with Aunt Minnie once a week and do a couple of loads of laundry— it had slowly started to experience a resurgence. In the years since I had graduated, it had morphed into an upscale, quarter-mile square neighborhood still deemed as Little Italy— but of late, the world of the past and that of the present had started to collide.
Upscale international eateries, high-end trattorias, pasticcerias, gelaterias, as well as exclusive fashion boutiques and art galleries, had been popping up everywhere. Places such as these were not on my radar that morning, as Aunt Minnie had sent me on a mission to find the old world in the new. I followed her shopping list, which she’d organized so that I could make all the stops in the most efficient use of time...
The pasticceria was mobbed and infused with the scent of espresso and warm, fresh-baked bread and cookies. I weaved my way through the crowd and ripped a ticket from a dispenser on top of the counter. It was set alongside a tray filled with samples of cookie and cake crumbles. I helped myself and while my palate detected the crunchy sweetness of a chocolate dipped, almond biscotti, I looked at my ticket. Number 776. The electronic tote-board climbed to 770. I checked my watch. I’d already used up thirty-eight minutes on my first two errands. With six more people in front of me on the line, I hoped I could finish up here, get those fill-its at the fish store...

This is a lovely, heartwarming short story that brings you the touch of the holiday and the importance of family and love.

A.M. will be caught off-guard when a former beau is discovered to be a town resident now and owner of one of those little shops she visited...

There is no major plot, of course, just a fun story with wonderful characters and written with the setting chosen full of the old brought to us by Aunt Minnie who serves the full tradition course-after-course Italian meal that will take those in attendance all day to eat slowly and enjoy... 

Gerard has a talent for injecting humor in the most unexpected places and providing chuckles just for the pure pleasure of it...for example, have you ever gone to a chiropodist??? 😁😁

Take a little time out of your busy day or week and spend it with Aunt Minnie, one... It is a delightful tale of in which all of us can share! Highly recommended.


Kathleen Gerard writes across genres. Her work has been widely published in magazines, journals and anthologies - and has been awarded and nominated for many prizes including The Saturday Evening Post "Great American Fiction" Prize, The Mark Twain House Humor Prize and the Faulkner-Wisdom Prize. Several of Kathleen's essays have been broadcast on National Public Radio (NPR). Her woman-in-jeopardy novel, IN TRANSIT, won The New York Book Festival - "Best Romantic Fiction" category. 

To learn more about Kathleen, visit:

We met Kathleen via her book, The Thing Is...
If you didn't read my review, do check it out now!

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