One summer two French boys (they were 17-ish) overlapped. One was a great kid, full of fun and spirit. The other was, for want of a better word, surly.
Our mom was fine. She had eight kids, difficult, silly, surly, she managed us all. Well, until she didn't feel like managing us. One afternoon she had about had it with surly boy and so she dropped one of my brothers and the two French students off at the head of a trail that led down to a beach. They each had a backpack with a sleeping bag. My brother had his Boy Scout mess kit. I know Mama threw a jar of crunchy peanut butter, a bag of hot dog rolls, and some hot dogs in my brother’s backpack.
“Have fun! I’ll pick you up tomorrow morning” She rejoiced as she pulled away. “Let’s go for ice cream! Reverse dinner” she almost sang.
That’s what I knew. We went for ice cream, went home, had something for dinner, cleaned up, read a bit, and went to bed. About 11:30 at night the phone rang. It was my brother. He was calling from the girls’ camp main office on the Cape about five miles from where our mother had left him.
She wasn't happy, but she went and got the three boys; they were full of themselves.
“Oh, ho! We are good, n’est-ce pas? We find ze only camp wit girls for miles! We are good, eh?!”
My brother stretched happily over the back of the kitchen chair, smiled, and rubbed his stomach. “Yeah, we did all right. Good thing the bear left us alone.”
“Bear…?” Now Mama was all interested.
“When we were walking out from the beach, I thought it was old Harvey who stunk….” To his credit, grumpy Hervé smiled expectantly, following my brother’s tale.
“You would stink, too after eating ze ‘orrible food you bring for to camp!”
“What’s wrong with hot dogs?” Mama wondered out loud.
“Nofin’ iz wrong wit ze ‘ot dog, it iz ze soup that was so bad. We stink from eating it.”
Mama knew it was her dear son who had conjured up a dish and she looked at him with cautious admiration, “Ohh…?”
“I made traditional crunchy peanut butter and hot dog soup….we threw the rolls off the path for the bear and we sang to keep it away from us.”
The boys ate some cereal and then headed off to the boys’ “dorm” in the loft of the barn. Strains of La Marseilles and It’s a Long Way to Tipperary followed them out of the house.