And then this week came Etiquette class. You all know that I was raised in the woods by wolves, but the Captain had great instruction from his mother, a highly proper Maine lady. If we had a nickel for every time he's told her "Sit up straight at the table," "That's too big a bite," "Get your elbows off the table," or "Eat like a person," we'd be swimming in coins.
And yes, this is the same Captain Reed who once showed me how he and James used to eat french fries "like a trout" which meant "No hands, Ma!"
Anyway, she knows good and well how to properly behave at the dinner table. So when we were being indoctrinated into the Herron High School lifestyle and they talked about etiquette lessons during their Thanksgiving lunches, I was unconcerned.
I think she flunked it, though. As in, sub-zero scoring. As in, she'd fit right in among my siblings where it was every kid for himself and you were lucky to leave the table without bite marks on your forearm.
To hear her tell it, it began with unfortunate seating. "I sat right beside lady who teaches the class," she said. "She was kind of scary."
This is no five-minute lecture on how not to slurp your soup. It's a professional etiquette course taught by Christe Pate Herron. Now, remember, Ali knows how to behave. All I can imagine is she had some kind of mental breakdown.
"There were three forks but all we had was salad, mashed potatoes, green beans and turkey," Alison said. "There was no way I needed all those forks."
The meal began with the kids being told how to properly fold and lay their napkins on their laps. Used to paper napkins beside her plate, this exercise apparently took a toll on Alison as she managed to get the napkin on her lap but then immediately forgot it was there.
She had her eye on the rolls and the turkey but was instructed that you pass the food to your right, only taking it when it comes back to you.
"You do that and all the good stuff is gone," complained my delicate flower. "The teacher did that and all that was left for her was crumbs. She didn't have hardly any food at all!"
Like her mother, Alison loves bread. She'd taken a huge bite of her roll just as Ms. Herron was telling everyone about proper bite sizes. Ms. Herron's eyes met Alison's as she downed a full 2/3 of the buttery roll.
A super fan of gravy, Alison took issue with the delivery system. "There was a spoon in the gravy boat," she said. "A spoon! I told everyone that it was a gravy boat and you were supposed to pour from it. There shouldn't have been a spoon in it at all but she didn't listen. And I had to fish the spoon out of the gravy boat a couple of times."
"You at least used your knife when it came to the turkey, didn't you?" I asked.
She shook her head. "No. I didn't really need it."
I gulped. "You didn't stuff huge wads into your mouth, did you?"
"Well. Um. Probably not. I could cut it with a fork like with egg foo young," she said. "And everyone thought I was crazy when I put gravy on my turkey. But who eats turkey without gravy?"
I asked if she at least kept up polite conversation with her dinner companions. "Well, I told the teacher she kind of scared me," she said.
Any inroads she'd made with Ms. Pate were likely eroded when, in a flashback to the buttery roll incident, she was wiping the gravy off her mouth with her sleeve when she next caught Ms. Pate's eye.
I asked her why she hadn't used her napkin.
"Well, I totally forgot it was there," she said.
At least she didn't entertain the table with stories of squirrel as the main course. I'm hoping academics will outweigh etiquette when it comes time for graduation.