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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & General Editor
Volume 8, Number 3, September 2014


Chris Bays
Beavercreek, Ohio, USA


After the sirens, starvation, and roll calls, Oma watched for parachutes, skies filled with crates, food sailing from Amerika; after hearty eating she restacked bricks, dug shrapnel from gardens, scattered children for work . . . some strewn across Germany, others planted in France and the United States. After retrenched ordinances—schools, vineyards, and factories restored—after the Kirschbaum bloomed once more, Oma remarried, saw her family expand to China, Turkey and Portugal, grandchildren to follow.

She called us “Meine Vereinte Nationen, My United Nations,” for we gathered from around the globe to the family feast that took place once a year. Two oak tables stretched from dining room to living room, rooms built brick by brick by her and Opa, the first husband I never met. Arrayed on seamstress-sewn cloth that looked like a parachute were bowls, platters, and pots brimming with plenty: grape leaves, hand cut, stuffed with rice & lamb, tucked tight, a volley of saffron; Sauerbraten, drowned in red wine & vinegar, raisin sprinkled, surrounded by Knödel; scent of the sea, plump shrimp suffused with garlic, sardines in spiral formations, hint of Renoir reds wrestling a tapestry of green & yellow vegetables; ham hocks, some heaped high, others sinking, simmering amidst pinto beans; an iron pot like a helmet filled with collard greens, scent of bacon. My teen cousins and I never knew where to begin or when to stop. It was always a fight over the last bite.

But the feasts faded as our families drifted apart—some succumbed to divorce or travel expenses, others spent more time with friends, a few withdrew to private estates. The feasts disappeared after Oma died.

I set the table
for three . . .
distant caroling



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