Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Din-ner!

Do they have clocks in heaven? I think they do. At least, for the people who are inclined to like clocks. And I think, at 5:30 on the dot, every night, my mom and dad sit down for dinner.

We had a very consistent dinner routine when we were kids:

4:45: Mom or Dad starts cooking. The four of us are upstairs, behind various closed doors. We are, of course, quite busy with assorted important projects. Like making troll clothes or writing our names on things so nobody can steal them and claim them for their own. (If not for this annoying habit, my collection of Beatles cards might actually be worth something today.)

5:30 exactly, on the dot: Mom goes to the foot of the stairs and rings the dinner bell - usually singing "Din-ner" at the same time. Doors burst open, and we all tromp downstairs like a herd of wild elephants.

5:31: Mom calls us a herd of wild elephants. We all roll our eyes.

5:32: Conversation begins.

Mom: Bill, how were your classes today?

Dad: Well, I -

Us: Let's play I Spy! I spy something plaid! You can't say plaid, it has to be a color! What are you, the I Spy boss? I'm just saying, that's the rules! There's no rules for I Spy, you just spy whatever you want to spy! Well plaid is a pretty dumb thing to spy! Why, is it too hard for you?

Mom: GIRLS! Can we eat in peace, please? Who wants to tell us about their day at school?

Us: Hey, I'm gonna tap a rhythm on the table, and you guys guess what song it is! That's not a song, you're just tapping! Nu uh, listen closer, wait, I'll tap louder! Jingle Bells!!!

Mom: Bill, would you like more -

Us: What's red and black and red all over? You said that wrong! I mean white and black and red all over! Everybody knows that one! I knew that one when I was in NURSERY school! Oh yeah? Well you still ARE in nursery school! Oh yeah??

Dad: I'm going upstairs. Good night girls.

Us: GOOD NIGHT DADDY!

Mom: sigh.

..... So. That was dinner. I do kind of wonder why it had to be right at 5:30, on the dot. I also wonder why the dinner bell was necessary - I mean, at a certain point they could have just told us all to be downstairs at 5:30. It's not like it was a big surprise every night.

And now, I wonder if Mom and Dad enjoy peaceful dinners together, with the exotic foods they loved and a nice glass of heavenly wine. I think they do. And I think they reminisce about those noisy, silly dinner times when the food they prepared so carefully was practically ignored, the topic of conversation went in at least 4 directions at once, and the concept of "table manners" was completely out the window.

They probably shake their heads and laugh, and recall friends whose children knew how to sit still and put a napkin in their lap without making an origami ballerina out of it first. Looking back, I think they know how important those rowdy dinners were. I think they know they were right to let us babble on (and on and on), even when it drove them crazy. I think they know that their 4 little perfectionists needed freedom more than rules.

I think they knew all along.

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