Billy the Kid, the lovely and charitable Mrs. S, and I went to pick up the goose today at Antonelli’s on Federal Hill in Providence. A Christmasy nip was chapping faces, so my mother and BK waited in the car while I very nearly ran to the tiny market, and opened the door to find the thin strip of floor space in front of the counter crammed full of people. As soon as the door closed behind me, I was in the middle of New Year’s Eve in Times Square. I asked the woman with whom I was practically dirty dancing to point me toward the back of the line, and she directed her young son to explain the process to me. I was to take a number and wait in line. Everyone was in line. I heard loud chatting in Spanish, Italian and Portuguese, and had a moment of tilde shame before plodding on.
Having called weeks in advance to order the bird, I assumed there must be a VIP area and walked toward the rear of the shop, where I could make out bright lights and several figures behind a plastic curtain. As I stepped in, the closest twenty heads turned to me briefly, and the gleam in everyone’s eyes struck me as odd, as did the thick, pungent odor that took a moment to punch me in the neck. As bodies shifted and my line of sight cleared, I noticed several hundred various live chickens, turkeys and geese stacked up in a tower of wire cages like something from Brazil, as well as a great deal of attention being paid to a point just beyond.
Since I was obviously not in the preorder area, I exited before getting hooked on the show; I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to stare my dinner in the eye. Back in the featherless area, I realized as I glanced around for a clerk that my intent on circumnavigating the queue was garnering some nasty looks from the hoard. So I went outside and got my mom. Billy the Kid and I hung by the exit as my mother marched up to the register, spoke quietly with the cashier, and then returned with one twelve-pound goose, freshly cleaned and butchered.
Mrs. Get-the-Job-Done Smith somehow manages to find time for a career while routinely coming to the rescue of my immediate family, and I plan to do my part in making that easier for her by eventually moving back to RI. Several of the more memorable anecdotes starring my mother’s archangelic efficiency involve single-handedly (literally) stopping her Saturn wagon from rolling down a driveway with my brother in the back while appearing totally unphased; shaming my high school into running AP French in my senior year even though I was the only student; and a short-lived but terrifying policy under which shoes left out were considered trash and thrown away.
So, thank you Mrs. S, for making our Christmas feast possible, and now let the performance anxiety nightmares of burnt goose begin.