VIEW FROM THE PORCH - Family editors offer harshest critique

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I read your book," brother Mike said.

"About time," I said.

"You messed up some stuff."

"Like what?"

"When Coco made picnic lunches, she put boiled eggs in waxed paper bags and sprinkled salt and pepper on 'em. She never put egg in the tuna salad."

"Sure she did," I said. "I have her recipe. She chopped up eggs and mixed them into the tuna salad. She said sometimes it was more like egg salad than tuna salad."

"No she didn't, big brother. You're making that up. And she didn't put sweet pickle relish in the tuna salad. She used dill relish."

"No she didn't ..."

Welcome to my world. Write a memoir and wait for the corrections, because they're coming -- fast and furious. "No greater urge in life than to fix somebody else's draft," my father-in-law used to say.

The phone rang. It was brother Mike again. "I called Coco," he started. (He sounded mighty self-righteous.) "Asked her about the boiled eggs."

"And?"

"She did both. She put some in waxed paper bags and chopped some up and put 'em in the tuna salad. So we were both right."

"Good," I said. "What about the relish?"

"Forgot to ask."

"After your relish rant the other day? C'mon, Mike."

"Well, OK," he said. "She used sweet pickle relish. But I like dill relish better."

"Good for you," I said. "Maybe you should write a book."

A week or so later ...

"Sam!" Aunt Irma was calling. "I finally read that book you wrote."

"Yes, ma'am," I said. "How'd you like it?"

I was waiting for her to tell me what a great read it was and how wonderful the writing was and how great the characters were and how much it meant to her and how the food in the book brought back bittersweet memories and ...

"That story about the farm's all wrong. Uncle Pete says he only had that old sow and the piglets for a year. That was the year the hay wagon burned. Remember? Not the year you boys fished out the pond and kept us in the kitchen frying up those durned sunfish."

"Right," I said.

"And you messed up that story about the white sauce. I put nutmeg in mine. Mamie made it plain. She hated nutmeg. You got the whole thing backwards."

"Yes ma'am," I said. "Sorry."

"And why didn't you put in my story about the rabbit? That's the best story -- way better than a lot of the ones you put in. I tell it all the time. Everybody loves it. I can't believe you left it out."

"Yes ma'am. Sorry."

"There's more, Sam -- too much to tell long distance. Your Uncle Pete's about to have a heart attack over the durned phone bill. Want me to send you a note? I've got a whole list here. "

"That'd be great," I said. "Send me a note."

The day before yesterday ...

"Sam?"

"Hi Rebecca," I said.

"I found two typos in your book."

"How'd you like the book?"

"It was OK, I guess. But I was calling about the typos. The first one's on page ... "

So what is it about human beings? Where do we get our overweening desire to set the record straight? Point out the flaws? Whether they matter or not? Why do we care?

"Don't know," Annie said. "Why do you care?"

"Don't know," I said.

"Maybe it's a good thing folks care. You can probably get a newspaper column out of it."

"Good point," I said.

If you'd like to read more of Sam's musings on life, get yourself a copy of his most recent book, BIG APPETITE. (It's full of inaccuracies.)

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