CHRISTMAS EVE FEASTS. After Mary Jane and I married, we usually went up to Syracuse for Christmas. Mary Jane’s mother was a formidable cook. She devoted extra effort to Christmas Eve, preparing seven or eight courses—all would be sea food. The first course would be calamari; there were usually six pounds of calamari prepared in two or three ways. This presented me a challenge. There were only three of us who ate calamari, and as much as I liked calamari, there were still six or seven courses to go after the three of us, on behalf of the table, had done the required justice to the squid.

At the table, there were always several happy references about the Christmas that one of the aunts woke up the night before the feast, ventured into the kitchen, turned on the light, and discovered that the live eels had escaped.

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  1. Worse than that! Aunt Ernestine went into the kitchen to get a drink of
    water in pitch darkness. She didn’t turn on the light for fear of waking up
    whoever might be sleeping in the spare room just off the kitchen. Suddenly,
    her bare feet came in contact with something clammy and slithering. She screamed
    and turned on the light. The family awoke and rushed in to see her standing, in
    horror, in the midst of a swarm of eels that my grandmother had skinned and left
    soaking in cold water in the kitchen sink!
    Irrelevant note: The spare room in that house was called “the ice box.”

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