Earlier in the week, John, one of my comrades, asked if Friday was good for a double date. “I can’t confirm without checking with the folks,” I opined, “though I’d say it’s a good bet. I’ll see you tomorrow at practice and let you know.” Practice is for our summer league baseball team. In essence, our high school baseball team joined the league so we could extend our playing time as a unit. One of the byproducts of this action was our kinship being nurtured from the age thirteen thru graduation from high school.
Entering the house after practice I quickly asked mom for the car so I can get the Friday date confirmation. Without hesitation she answered, “Honey, daddy and I have plans Friday night and we need you to watch the kids.” What plans could be more important than a date with my steady and my good pal and his girlfriend? The kids are sister Georgeann and brothers Robert and Dale. Coming to my senses I said okay with no retort. The law is the law and I was going to watch the kids Friday night. After dinner I called John and fed him the news. “Aw, man, Friday night in the house?” “No big deal, I like watching the kids, and mom never forgets the snacks, plus there will always be another Friday night.”
Friday at five-thirty I kiss mom and dad good-bye and tell them to have a good time. Right around six the phone rings, it’s John. He says he didn’t want to go on a date unless we could double. I told him to come over while I put the kids to bed. “Sure, I’ll see if Babe is doing anything.” Babe is John’s younger brother and plays on the team, too. Babe’s given name is Donald, however, John had a difficult time saying “baby”, dubbed his brother babe and it stuck. The kids were down early. John and Babe were at the door just a few minutes later. We were watching television munching on one of the treats mom bought when a knock at the door surprised the three of us. Babe jumped up first to answer the door, and to our delight in strolled Bill and another John. “Hey, you guys lost?” “Just bored,” blurted John. “Nothing happening out there,” pointing outside. “Bill got word of the baby sitting job, so here we are.” Freely going to the kitchen they found bowls, additional snacks and joined us. About nine o’clock Babe asks if he could use the phone in the sewing room to make a few calls. “What did you do” his brother asks. “I called Mike and told him to get hold of Chuck and Kenny and anybody else not on a date who wanted some snacks.” I looked at him with a sneer but could only laugh. It wasn’t too funny though. Before ten-thirty there were nine of my buddies, munching and cavorting with one another like little kids. It was a party waiting to happen. As the night wore away, one by one someone disappeared to fall asleep; behind the couch, on the chair, in the sewing room, anywhere.
I woke up with popcor on the floor next to me and to the sound and smell only mom’s cooking could produce. I wasn’t the first one up, Babe and Bill were urging my mother on like she was on the “team.” She told them to wake everybody and get seated at the dining room table so she could start serving the sausage, bacon and homemade pancakes, from scratch. Everyone is up now, including the kids and my father.
Mom cooked for an hour. Nine animals and her brood did not prove overwhelming. It was controlled chaos. Who wanted the syrup or silverware, more milk or orange juice. Babe was a constant reminder to the guys that mom used real butter and not “oleo margarine,” so “don’t be pigs.”
Mom and dad still talk about the breakfast. They remind me often how they had to park the car in the street, and navigate through sleeping bodies to get to their room. The breakfast episode always gravitates to the spaghetti dinners mom and dad would have for the teams I played for. These were spreads like no one can describe. Happiness, joy and a particular sparkle are always in mom’s eyes when she recalls that Friday night and Saturday morning in the Orlando household.
I left my boyhood hometown at an early age never to return. I have often wondered about the successes or failures of my friends. No matter, though, that Friday night is burned in my memory forever.
By Carlo Orlando©