"Some clodhopper down in Griffith, Indiana swallowed a yo-yo the other day."
"Now that's real news!" from A Christmas Story
" Well, I guess The Hickeys are now Clock Hobbers down in Griffith, Indiana" Mary E. Hickey
It was a Saturday and Mary was about a week overdue. Mary is the mother of my two oldest - Nora and Conor. Nora was ten years old and Conor was five and delighted that a baby was on the way. My Mom and Dad took the two bairns to Oak Lawn for New Years, as Mary was sure to pop any minute.
We had moved to Griffith, Indiana ( The Town That Came to the Tracks - No, Kidding that is the town's motto) that summer, when Mary and I took jobs at Bishop Noll Institute in Hammond - the setting of classic Christmas Story movie. The kids attended St. Mary's Grammar School only few blocks north of our home 218 N. LaFayette( third house north of the apartment building).
The home was a yellow framed shot-gun bungalow built for families who worked in the once thriving steel mills from Hegewisch in Illinois all way the to Porter County, Indiana. This little house prepped for our new little Hickey. We did not know if it would be a girl or boy child and did not care. Mary a gorgeous, tall skinny redhead always sported a pregnancy beautifully and looked like a red bristled broom with half-barrel of Baderbrau ( great Chicago beer) strapped to the handle, but had had enough of waiting for Lazy Childe #3!"
" Take me to that Italian joint in Munster, Giovanni's. I hear that if you garlic up a storm it induces labor," Mary commanded. From the minute I met Mary in 1977- once was enough . . .ANd Done!
It was colder than a mother-in-law's kiss and there was about a foot of snow on the ground. We took the Main Street ( 45th Ave) to Munster. Mary was slated to deliver at Munster Hospital on Calumet Avenue and it was only a few blocks from, Giovanni's on Ridge Road. I had scouted quickest routes to the Hospital, barring one of the many freights trains blocking us from the birthing room and the Benjamin Griffith's cleverly named MainStreet seemed the surest route,
Giovanni's in Muster, Indiana is on Ridge Road and snuggles up to Illinois State Line near Lansing. It is a wonderful and authentic Italian restaurant free of faux fare found at Francesca's franchise and much more satisfying than any Olive Garden trough.
Giovannis does garlic like Baderbrau does hops and malted grains.
Mary always ate like she was "going to the Chair," but this New Year's had a maternal and medical reason for her gourmandizing -" Get what you want and I'll just have . . . The Bruschetta, Shrimp Scampi, . . .they're appetizers! Don't give me that look . . .mmm. . . the calamari salad - load up the garlic, please. . . .a cup of minetrone . . .Oh, and the crab cakes and just bring me some iced tea. What?"
I am no slouch with a fork, but even this hormone stoked feed seemed excessive and my face betrays what passes for reflection, like a fatman stuffed in a Speedo at State and Madison at High Noon.
The waitress approved Mary With Child's order with the knowing nod to me signalling the sisterhood of contempt universal for the unwombed tablemate.
" Ignore him, Honey."
" I do. I hope this works, I would love to have a News Year's Eve baby - Little Tax Deduction! God, I'm starved pass the bread olive oil and the crashed garlic."
Mary was a brilliant woman, a talented artist and master malaprop. She would say the booming local enterprise was doing " Land Mine Business!" and hummed the great Four Tops hit about a monster " Ain' No Woman Like the One-eyed Got."
I screw up practically everything I touch, but get the words or phrasing to fit. . . most times.
" What? Oh, pardon me, Mr. Wordschmidt!"
The orders arrived and Mary lived the lyrics of Johnny McEldoo on New Year's Eve 1994! I had the 16 oz. bone-in Steak and put away only a few ounces when, " Cut me off nice hunka that, Big Boy! . . .pronto!"
So let it be written; so, let it be done!
Mary scooped more garlic onto the generous cut of wood-fired beef crusted in sea salt, pepper corns and fresh garlic and it vanished as had the Bruschetta, Minestrone, Calamari Salad, Crab Cakes and the appetiser for two portion of Shrimp Scampi and never broke a sweat.
" If This Baby Doesn't Get on the Ball and quick upon it!"
My bushy browed eyes betrayed me again, Uncomfortable, my Lamb?
" Don't start with me, Bucko, or you'll be driving back to Griffith zipped in a body bag. Ask for the check."
It was 8 P.M. We drove past Munster Hospital and Mary stared at the ER sign. " Say nothing, Hubby and you might just live to see 1996 . . .you're doing all the night work with this lazy child for at least a year, Bub!"
It was a tough four hours for my Love and I am sure that child napping and thumb-suckingly contented in her womb was more than satisfied with garlic-infused amniotic fluid marinade. we watched and waited - with Dick Clark and throngs in Times Square -
Clare was so fetal-ly contented that she napped away until January 2, 1995. I barely had time to park the car and Mary shot our baby into this world.
Time-delayed garlic miracle!