Me: (laying down to quiet my poor nerves) Hum?
Hank: I am sorry to disturb you.
Me: You are never a disturbance, Hank.
Hank: Okay, but it’s time for my present from Vienna, Austria and I thought you’d want to see it.
Me: Oh yes, I do! (getting up gingerly)
Hank: Do you need help?
Me: Nope, but I need my camera. Conference presents are like Christmas presents.
Hank: (waiting to walk with me to the table) When I grow up I want a job where I get to go to conferences like papa.
Me: Conferences mean an endless stream of tote bags and monogramed pens as well as professional development and the interchange of ideas in your field.
Hank: Do writers and artists have conferences?
Pai: It’s time!
Me: Shall I make some tea?
Pai: Let’s open this first. (presenting Hank with a wrapped package) I bought this for Hank in a beautiful chocolate shop in downtown Vienna, Anzinger Confiserie.
Hank: It is big so I think I am going to share it. I don’t know yet, but I think I am. I don’t feel selfish yet.
Me: (giggling) Save the paper. Oh Hank, look at this beautiful paper. When life used to be all goods were wrapped in paper. Everything was a present.
Hank: Yes, I will save it and put it in my special Sarabeth Noodle-Made Book***. The one with pockets where I write my secrets.
Pai: You have so many beautiful journals but that one is my favorite.
Me: Mine, too.
Hank: Mama, help me open this so I don’t rip the paper.
Me: With pleasure. Look how fine the illustrations are.
Hank: Was this shop by your hotel, papa?
Pai: Sort of. There was a wonderful granny working at the shop and she had been to Algarve and Lisbon and she helped me pick out your treat. This is very special and very traditional to Vienna. She was very helpful. I was just going to get you some chocolates but she helped me change my mind.
Hank: OH! Look at the box! I am going to keep this box forever.
Hank: (popping the lid) Oh papa!
Me: How lovely.
Hank: I can’t wait. Thank you, papa!
Molly: CAKE! Quero (I want) CAKE!!! CAKE!
Hank: Papa, you cut it I don’t want to mess it up it is so pretty.
Hank: This I have to share with everyone.
Me: Very generous of you, buddy.
Pai: (slicing) I don’t think you sister would give you another choice.
Molly: CAAAAKKKKEEE! (pointing)
Pai: (doling out slices to everyone leaving himself for last)
Hank: (not waiting and diving in)
Me: (following his lead)
Molly: (shoving practically a whole slice in her mouth)
Pai: (just sitting down to his piece)
Hank: (mouth full) Um…
Me: (mouth full, laughing)
Molly: (spatting out half of the cake from her mouth)
Me: (genuine belly laughing, unable to answer)
Hank: Um… Well.
Pai: Don’t tell me… (tasting the cake)
Me: (laughing tears into my eyes)
Pai: (throwing down his fork) It’s not fresh.
Hank: It was probably great when it was fresh, but it is dry now.
Me: (reading the box lid) Is Sachertorte German for mediocre? (return to belly laughing)
Pai: I am sorry, Hank. Argh. This is like Fatima all over again.
Hank: What is like Fatima?
Me: When your Grammy Kate and Grandpa Snitch visited Portugal the first time from America we took them to the holy city of Fatima and after visiting we stopped into a shop selling traditional Portuguese cakes. It wasn’t a proper pastelaria (pastry shop), but like a pop-up shop on our way to the car and they had boxes and boxes of seemingly yummy offerings so we over bought because your Pai wanted to give is sogros (In-Laws) a taste of the finer things of Portugal and when we got on the road we dipped into the sweets and everything was stale. They committed the biggest sin in Portugal in the holiest of places: selling stale pastry that should have been thrown away.
Pai: I have never recovered. I was so upset that I had been fooled. Just like now.
Hank: It’s fine, papa. How did you know? You couldn’t know. That granny lied to you and maybe she didn’t know, too.
Me: You got hustled, my love. She was a cake hustler.
Pai: (utterly defeated) Damn it. She was so nice.
Me: Did she up sell you?
Me: Yup, you got cake hustled. She needed to move that product. I bet she made her numbers that day.
Hank: The day this cake was made it was great and that is what I am imagining.
Me: Tea? Milk? I think I have cake stuck in my esophagus. (pounding my chest)
Hank: Tea will make this cake great. I love my present, papa, thank you.
Pai: (shaking his head, defeated) She was so nice.
Me: (from the kitchen) She was a cake hustler. You got played.
Molly: No quero cake. (I don’t want cake) Que Nojo (super gross).
Pai: (retrieving her plate before she pitches the cake to the floor) Hey, it’s not that bad, Amália.
Me: (returning with the tea box) Kettle is on and who wants milk? (both Molly and Hank’s arms shoot into the air)
Pai: I am so disappointed.
Hank: I’m not. We made a memory and someday when we all visit Vienna we can go to this shop and stand outside and not buy a thing and remember this day.
Me: That is a great idea, Hank.
Pai: I would have preferred if we loved the cake and then had another reason to visit the shop again. Man.
Hank: It’s fine!
Me: (singing on my way back into the kitchen for the kettle and the milk) You can’t always get what you want, but you can try sometimes and you just might find, you get what you neeheed!
*** We are blessed with a very lovely family friend Sarabeth Noggle (which Hank has always called Noodle) who is a print maker and a book maker and an artist of all sorts and who made Hank a very special hand bound journal that he treasures and keeps all his secrets in.