German Park Picnic
The women and men working in the kitchen are laughing and joking, even though it feels like about 500 degrees. I buy a sausage and sauerkraut and sit down at another picnic table to ask the man sitting across from me how long he's been coming to these picnics. "Since 1958," he says. "Today is my birthday." The woman on my left surprises me by requesting my last food ticket, which I give to her. The band is playing "Edelweiss."
"My dad was a welder and fabricator," the man says, searching his memory for the German word for his father's trade. "He worked for the company that built the Mackinac Bridge." The woman next to me who took my ticket is his sister, her blond hair pinned up in tight, tiny ringlets at her ears. They start tracing their parents' lives: where they were born, when and where they met, where they lived. "Show her the necklace," he says. She does. It's a lovely flower encased in glass. "This is an original edelweiss," she says. "The national flower. It's supposed to have a black velvet chain. It was my mom's." She looks at her brother. "Now it's mine."
The sister gives me a beer; she says I get the first one for giving her my last ticket. Her brother's girlfriend gives me a pretzel and tells me to put mustard on it. It's good.