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I remember vividly that, when Gill and her siblings were young, they used to splatter themselves with food all the time. L’il Sis had a lovely white Swiss cotton dress that she insisted on wearing when she ate orange popsicles. And one of my favorite photos of Crazy D as a youngster was of him eating — food smeared everywhere — on his face, covering his hands, on his clothes. They were a messy lot. But you expect that of children.

The thing that has disturbed me of late is that I have developed something of a reputation for winding up with food on my clothes when I eat. And since I love wearing white shirts and sweaters, I have become a running joke in the family…rare is the day when I don’t have something (usually red) smattered on my clothing.

I admit that I bring it on myself. At home, I insist on making spaghetti sauce while wearing white t-shirts or sweaters. It splatters while it simmers. It splatters on me.

I do try to ‘clean up my act’ when in public…it’s not as if I was raised by wolves. I am quite accustomed to dining in fine restaurants and, although Gill will find this hard to believe, I usually comport myself quite well. But the trip to Bristol brought out the worst in me. First up was the train ride to Bristol. We sat down and I decided to open my bottle of fizzy water. Since I drink it at home all the time, I’m well acquainted with the necessary technique of unscrewing the top slowly — lest it explode. Guess what? Despite my caution, it did explode — all over me, all over Gill, and across the aisle to hit a fellow passenger. I tried to apologize to him but was so overtaken by hysterical laughter, I could barely manage a feeble,”Sorry!” He graciously smiled…probably thinking, “Those damned American tourists! Loud and so gauche…”

My next ‘food malfunction’ happened during our day at the beach in Exmouth. Gill had been regaling me with the glories of Devon ice cream made from their famous clotted cream. It was, according to her, to die for. We stopped at an ice cream stand and got a cone each.I tried to get mine in a waffle cone but Gill poo-pooed that. “You have to have it in the traditional, tasteless cone,” she dictated.

I showed her! As I came close to the end of my cone, I decided to shove the last inch into my mouth and eat it that way. The ice cream was beginning to leak out of the end so I figured that would stem the flood. As I chewed the tiny bit of cone, it became a sodden, mushy glob in my mouth. I made the mistake of biting down hard on what I guess was the very tip and as I did so, ice cream squirted out of my mouth heading for Gill. I was so embarrassed. “Well, if I’d had a waffle cone, that wouldn’t have happened,” I pleaded in my defense. I could tell Gill was disgusted. Again, I broke out into uncontrollable laughter. But I have to say, the Devon clotted cream ice cream lived up to its billing. It was delicious.

The final indignity was lunch at a lovely pizza restaurant in Bristol. Knowing I would be eating something with red sauce and gooey cheese, I prepared as best I could. I used one of the napkins as a bib to protect my blue and white striped top. I knew I had a reputation within the family as the woman with spaghetti sauce blotches on all her clothes, so I made this supreme effort not to embarrass Gill in public. But I was enjoying the pizza so much, I was eating with real gusto — wiping my greasy hands on the bib…failing to realize exactly how very thin the napkin was. And failing also to appreciate that the white stripe of my shirt was exactly under where the napkin lay. Gill pointed out to me (in a tone that was none too understanding, I must say) that it was highly probable that the grease had soaked through the napkin and was now staining my white stripe. Well, I tried! I really did…

All I can say is it’s a good thing she didn’t witness me in the airport lounge chewing away on my collection of nuts and seeds, crackers and cheese, apples…looking for all the world like a little chipmunk stuffing its pouches for a long winter. Some things are best kept to oneself.