Yesterday morning I was just thinking how much I would love to have some friends and their families over for dinner some time. We’ve met so many lovely people since we moved here, and I’d like to have them over so they’ll know they’re welcome. I thought about it merrily all day, and by yesterday evening I realized that gathering people I treasure around my family table for a meal is a terrible idea.
Just imagining having company over to witness our dinner here last night gives me a nervous tick. I think it was going okay until Sean excused himself to use the bathroom. Two minutes later he runs back into the dining room with his pants around his ankles, in a panic that he can’t turn off the water in the sink. I paused my meal so as to accompany Sean to the bathroom and show him again how to turn off the faucet. While we were there I also re-rinsed his hands, because for all the water that was cascading down into that sink, his hands were still soapy … as were the faucet handles.
I was just finishing rinsing off the handles when I noticed the toilet. The water was way down low in that foreboding way that hints at some kind of impending plumbing hostility. I asked Sean if he had flushed anything down there that might cause a clog. He gave me an unnecessarily detailed play-by-play of every lavatory visit he had made that day but assured me that he hadn’t flushed anything that hadn’t at one point been inside him.
I decided to give it just one Hail Mary flush before I called in the plunger just in case this was one of those lucky false alarms. It wasn’t. I grabbed the plunger and plunged with all my might until the water was a kitten whisker away from overflowing. Then, mercifully, the floods abated, and the water went swirling down the pipes. Whew. No mopping was necessary, so I figured I’d just give the plunger a quick rinse in the bathtub and deal with it after dinner. So, I put the plunger under the tub faucet, leaned over the bathtub, and turned on the water … the water that (after my older son’s last shower) had been set to shoot out the shower head instead. I screeched in alarm as a great deluge of cold water flooded abruptly onto my head. I fumbled for the shower switch and with a wild, flailing motion diverted the water back to the tub. I stood for a moment while the plunger steeped, watching my hair drip and wondering if I would ever get back to my plate of ever-cooling food.
After washing up I made my way back to the table where Liam and Sean were playing a game they had invented, called “Bobbing for Noodles.” Had my husband, Peter, been at the table, the boys probably would not have been so bold as to splat their faces down onto their plates and scarf stroganoff like 4-H piglets at a livestock show. But it was my fault Peter wasn’t there to keep order. I had been too much of a wussy before dinner to walk out in the dark to Peter’s shop in the driving rain (in my fancy socks) to tell him that we were ready to eat. I figured “Oh, well. He knew dinner was almost ready when he went out there; he’ll be back in a couple minutes.” But I guess not.
I put a stop to all the shenanigans and sat down at the table with my loved ones to (finally) eat and enjoy some delightsome dinner conversation. Sean got things rolling with his witty repartee, which went something like “I tooted in this room. My fart was stealth! Do you smell it yet? Hey, this hazelnut looks like a butt!” I suppose I shouldn’t complain. I wasn’t adding much to the conversation either, but I believe I contributed, “Stop squishing green beans with your hands!” and “Hey, turn around and sit up! You’re getting the back of your shirt all in your dinner!”
Sean further annoyed me by repeatedly reaching over and stealing my napkin to wipe his goopy face, despite the fact that EVERY OTHER NAPKIN IN THE HOUSE WAS IN THE NAPKIN HOLDER TWO INCHES IN FRONT OF HIM. Whenever I dabbed my mouth with my napkin I got messier than I was to begin with. But it’s hard to stay mad at him. The boys love my cooking and have started rating my dinners mid-meal, and they’re usually quite flattering. They used to use a simple “thumbs-up-or-down” scale, but lately they’ve been using all their fingers to give me a number. I must have been really on par last night, because Sean gave my stroganoff “Ten fingers, ten toes, my head, and my penis!” Aw, shucks.
Despite the crowd-pleasing food, I found my resolve to let another human being into this house at feeding time crumbling quickly. I think Sean could tell he really put me through the wringer that night, because he walked over to me after dinner and offered me a single hazelnut. With his big, brown, four-year-old eyes he looked lovingly at me and said, “Here, Mama. You can have this nut that’s shaped like a heart, because I love you!”
Genuinely touched, I said, “Oh, thank you, honey! Wait. Is this heart-shaped hazelnut really the butt-shaped hazelnut upside-down?”
He smiled. “Yes!”