2 good 2 be 4 gotten


Tessa’s grandmother Nonnie always used to tell the story of the “Tomato Tom-Tom.” Around 1925 or so, poor Nonnie’s parents both died, leaving her and her brother orphaned (or “orphant,” as she says). The foster families split them up, her brother going to a family with more money, and Nonnie going to a poorer house in the same town.

The Tomato Tom-Tom was a country dance, the social event of the year, and Nonnie hadn’t seen her brother in a while. When he finally got to the dance, he pretended he didn’t know her. This is a level of sadness, of abject pathos, we can’t begin to contemplate: sweet Nonnie, having lost both parents and then being considered too lower-class by her own brother.

However, the Nonster told this story to her kids and grandkids so many times – and she outlived her brother by so many decades – that its effectiveness began to wane by the mid-1960s. By the 1990s, Tessa’s mom Sandy had finally heard enough and declared, “Okay, Mother! I’m sorry about what happened at the Tomato Tom-Tom, but it’s time to let it go!

So in honor of Valentine’s Day, let me tell you another little gem. When I was in grade school, there was a Valentine rule that if you gave a card to someone in class, you had to give one to everybody. It was all or nothing. And so we all made these little decorated Valentine paper bags and taped them to the chalkboard shelf that lined the front of the room. Classmates would slip the valentines in each bag.

But here’s what always happened: there were 26 people in each class, and valentines seemed to come in batches of 25. So everyone in class would get a nice store-bought Valentine written in cursive (and perhaps a treat), but in my bag they slipped a ripped, folded piece of paper with my name scribbled on it.

I was so embarrassed by the whole charade that I begged the teacher to rescind the “all or nothing” rule, letting everyone else off the hook, but she was unbendable. And so, each year, it was the same: the popular kids all getting nice Hallmark Valentines with candies that said “YOU’RE GREAT” on them, and I’d get a piece of crumpled notebook paper. They and I were locked in a dumb-show that neither could stand. It was sheer misery.

I told this story to my wife today, and she said, “Okay, Honey! I’m sorry about what happened at the Tomato Tom-Tom, but it’s time to let it go!” Then Tessa Ellen Valentine Blake – her actual name – hugged me, and somewhere, back in the furthest recesses of my mind, one humiliating fire was extinguished with a kiss.


0 thoughts on “2 good 2 be 4 gotten

  1. CL

    Pretty funny. Thanks for the smile this morning. ;)
    The tomato tom-tom story really is a heartbreaker, though. I hope they reconciled eventually.

  2. Sean

    Not to throw water on your story, but if each class had 26 kids, and Valentines come in 25, are you trying to say that each kid gave *themselves* a valentine and then gave you a sheet of notebook paper? I mean, that seems an almost surreal level of hostility.

  3. eric g.

    Sean, we always felt obliged to give a valentine to the teacher. Perhaps this is what left Ian in the cold. A sad story.
    The Tab t-shirt rules. It reminds me of working at the Carolina Inn in the summer of ’91. Jon Scoville and I discovered a few cases of Tab in the basement fridge and started putting it out on the bars at the dinner parties on which we were waiting. It really caught on (especially among the ladies at the functions), and soon even the waitstaff was drinking the stuff. Then one evening Chad Boswell and I made the unfortunate discovery that the cans were marked with “official sponsor of the 1988 Winter Olympics.” Meaning that these cases of Tab were canned sometime in 1987 or so, making them four years old by the time we were drinking them (and serving them to paying customers). Oh well, the stuff was so wretched no one could tell the difference anyway. And we started a brief trend.

  4. scotty

    24-packs of cards are also a possibility, Sherlock Sean. So’s the possiblility that Ian received higher-care value “hand made” cards. Artisan cards say “love” not “despise,” Ian.

  5. Lars

    The wonderment at Ian’s totally great t-shirt is warranted, but in clubland TAB is having a comeback as an energy drink. Pretty girls were handing cans out to all comers at the Karl Lagerfeld fashion show at Annie Leibowitz’ studo last friday night. They even gave them to the photographers, so you know from that there’s a lot of money going into the TAB ENERGY budget.
    I’ve got the can in the fridge; I’m a little scared of opening it. It’s right next to the Amstel Light from the Republican Convention.

  6. Laurie from Manly Dorm

    Hey, Eric — I worked at the Carolina Inn during the summer of 1990. I didn’t work in the banquet rooms; however, I was in the cafeteria. Hair net and all. Halfway through the summer, I pulled a huge food tray out of an oven and spilled hot grease all over me. I quit that day.

  7. eric g.

    An excellent point. (And a funny link.) My mother used to drink Tab by the six-pack, and I always wondered what was actually in it. Someone told me once that you have to drink like 80 gallons of saccharine a day to get cancer from it, but I’m pretty sure that person was somehow tied to the saccharine industry.
    BTW, were you at the Heels game last night? Hansbrough should make the All-ACC first team unanimously. To heck with the all-rookie team. What a performance.
    Laurie, I have no doubt that I saw you in the cafeteria because we used to take our lunch breaks in there (until the management decided that we had to eat our food elsewhere because it was unsightly to have waiters mingling with the “real” customers).


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