Son of a Bitch
“SON OF A BITCH”
My 2 year old grandson Ben (we call him Benjamuffin) came to visit us over the weekend. We read some stories, watched TV, played some games, kicked around a soccer ball and did some gardening. Ben really liked digging in the dirt, so we set him to work filling his bucket with compost.
When the wheel barrow was finally full, I plopped Ben on top and pushed him to the snap-pea garden. He didn’t like it too much, but he did like pushing the wheel barrow with my assistance.
Grandma took some pictures.
I immediately reminded me of a picture of me about that age, sitting in a wheel barrow on top of manure, wrapped in a sweater with a babushka on my head.
My grandmother and parents ran an elegant country restaurant which was also a farm.
On the farm worked my grandmother’s helper, a Polish refugee named John Pavalovish, or something like that. He mowed, he cut, he shoveled, he tended the cow and other livestock, washed laundry and hung it out to dry, he cared for the vegetables and flowers and whatever else needed to be done.
One of those other things that needed to be done was to watch the baby, that was me.
I followed him around for most of the day. Sometimes riding in the wheel barrow or on a tractor. Of course I couldn’t do much, but it must have been interesting because I don’t remember complaining about it.
I rarely heard John talk or say anything. Fact is I only remember two things about him. One was the way he blew his nose and the other was that everything he said was preceded by “son of a bitch”.
When he blew his nose he would put his thumb and forefinger over his nostrils and blow catching the snot between his fingers and then snapping it on the ground and wiping his hands on the back of his pants.
When John spoke, he sounded like this, “Come, we feed son of a bitch chickens” or “son of a bitch water is cold”. Whatever it was, part of the phrase was, “son of a bitch”.
One Saturday I was helping John weed a flower garden and he handed me a flower. “Here”, he said, “nice son of a bitch flower”.
When guests came for dinner, they expected to wait while someone went to the greenhouse to gather the greens for salad, or to the kitchen garden for tomatoes and even to the pigeon house for a squab. In season, someone would dash out into the field to pick corn or pluck a handful of string beans from the vine. Everything was made to order.
Waiting was an anticipated pleasure for the guests. They knew what they ordered was growing in the garden, being delivered to the kitchen and prepared just for them.
When the weather was cooperative, guest would often sit under the trees or glide gently on a double swing whose ropes disappeared high up in the branches or meander through the herb garden, sniffing and tasting as they went.
Sunday was particularly leisurely with often a dozen or so guests scattered about the property.
Sunday was also John’s day off. If the weather was lousy, I got in everyone’s way in the kitchen or under the feet of rushing waiters and bus boys or sent to my room. On pleasant days, I would wander about the property looking for something to do.
I happened upon a flower bed, the very one John and I were working on the day before. I picked a flower and continued my wandering.
A few minutes later I came upon a gentleman and a lady nibbling on some hors d’ourves and sipping something from tall stemmed glasses. It was the snacks that caught my attention.
I approached their spot and the lady offered me a cracker. It was very tasty and I helped myself to another one.
Just then, Pierre, the head waiter, came over and bowed and announced, “dinner was served”.
As the couple stood up, I offered the lady the flower, “Here, nice son of a bitch flower.”