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A-One and A-Two-A Macadamia Nuts
By Maxine Lapiduss

I sat in the corner of the kitchenette and stared at the nuts, fascinated. I'd never seen anything like them. I'd had Planter's cocktail mix but there wasn't anything like these in there. These guys were big and pasty lookin'. I picked one up. Oddly smooth.

Wow, old Lawrence was really a spark plug. He was chatting and laughing with my mom and he popped the champagne just like they did every week in the opening credits to the TV show.

He poured them each a glass of the bubbly, then sat down pretty close to my mother on the couch. My attention turned back to the bowl. I grabbed a handful of macadamias. They felt funny -- like cold marbles. I popped one in my mouth -- hmmm, salty. I pushed it back and forth from cheek to cheek like a jawbreaker, watching from afar as my mother retrieved her notebook from her purse and began asking Mr. Welk about his tour experience.

I worked the salt off the nut with my tongue and finally bit into it. Now it was oddly sweet. Interesting. It flaked apart in my mouth and I thought of Mr. Welk at home. If I were his kid, I'd be lying by our pool in Hollywood eating these things like popcorn. I casually tossed another into my mouth. Mr. Welk was speaking very softly to my mother. I couldn't hear what he was saying. He moved closer to her on the couch and I placed two more nuts in my cheek like a squirrel.

I tried to imagine how many nuts were in the bowl. I could definitely eat all of them without any problem, but then, that was bad manners and my mom would get mad at me. But Mr. Welk did say to help myself. I didn't think he'd mind. All it looked like he was interested in was kissing my mother's hand. He was doing it again.

I lined all the nuts up on the dinette table and counted them. There were twenty-seven left. Twenty-six. Twenty-five. They were way better than cashews and those were expensive so these must be really expensive. Mr. Welk had his arm around the back of the couch, around my mother. Boy he was touchy-feely. Was that the German custom? I thought all Germans were Nazis. That's what everyone at Temple Sinai always said.

Mr. Welk leaned into my mother to whisper something in her ear.

My mother jumped up off the sofa with a surprised look on her face.

She headed toward me -- flushed and shaken.

I quickly shoveled the nuts back in the bowl. "Come on Maxine, time to go! Say 'thank you' to Mr. Welk."

"Thanks for the macadamia nuts. Nice meeting you," I blurted. Before I could wipe the salt off my hands she yanked one and we flew into the hallway and into the elevator. The doors closed and she crumpled against them.

She was pale and her upper lip was sweating. She seemed mad at me. Or, maybe it was just one of her hot flashes. My mother was quiet for a long moment. "Just don't tell your father what happened, tonight, Maxine, please, he'll just get upset."

I couldn't understand why my mother wouldn't want my father to know that I'd tried macadamia nuts. Oh, yeah. We couldn't afford them and she didn't want to make him feel bad.

The next day, I heard my mom talking on the phone, telling her friend Vi Soffer that Lawrence Welk had tried to slip his tongue into her ear then into her mouth. What??? That's gross! America's wholesome liver-spotted bandleader was a filthy old letch who had totally come on to my mother! Even more disturbing was the fact that he probably did that in every town he played. What, did he think my mother would sleep with him?! With me in the adjacent kitchenette? Did he think that wasn't totally skeevy and strange? Did he come on to Nancy and Sissy? The Lennon Sisters? Or just anonymous women he'd meet on his one-nighters?

It's 30-some years later, and every time I see a macadamia nut, I think about letchy Lawrence Welk and about my mother. Being married to my dad must have been very difficult for her. I mean here she was this vital, passionate, sexy, attractive woman, married to a man who was never demonstrative or affectionate with her. And I wondered if my dad knew that other men, famous successful men, even if they were old and liver spotted, thought his wife was…well… much like a macadamia nut -- distinctive, and remarkable.

God knows Es is insane and a handful, but she did pass along a big gift to me… to look at life's oddities as wonderment, to savor the salt and the sweet, and not get too strung out by the flakey.

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