For once my new best friend, the weather report, delivered. At 4.30 this afternoon, it was close to forty degrees. And the wind that had ruined my good weather earlier in the day, was gone. ‘Who wants to go on an adventure with me,’ I tried to round up the troops.
‘I don’t!’ came the chorus of enthusiastic replies.
‘Who wants to go on an adventure with me…and get a treat,’ I changed my approach.
Suddenly I had two takers. I’d assumed the professor, who had plans to work on a lecture, was staying behind. But the good weather was too good to pass up, even for him. That, combined with a modicum of guilt that he’s flying to the shores of Nippon for a few days. Alone.
So we five piled in the car-van and headed towards the river. Young Percy was delighted to sit in a stroller and take in the absence of arctic chill. And the older boys ran. And ran.
‘Those two have a lot of energy,’ a sixtysomething jogger headed in the opposite direction remarked when he passed me.
Yes, being cooped up for weeks will do that to a person.
After a hearty walk – one that ended with a dreadful, out-of-breath crawl up a steep incline – we decided to do something we haven’t done in a very long time.
Go out to eat. With our kids. In a restaurant.
Put it this way: Percy is eighteen months old and has never been in a restaurant other than the pitstops we make during our epic journeys to the heartland. I vaguely recall eating at an Indian restaurant with the older two boys several months before Percy was born. And that may be the last time we all gathered together in a dining establishment. (To be fair the professor and I only go out to eat once or twice…a year.)
So perhaps it’s not surprising that our children behaved in a slightly uncivilized manner.
Less than three seconds after we sat down, the Hen knocked over the tiny plastic cup with tiny daisies serving as table decoration. I was busy removing the baby’s jacket when I felt water pour into my lap.
We used up our allotment of napkins trying to dry off the tabletop. My pants would have to dry on their own.
We were seated in a booth with a mirrored wall. Apparently our boys have not seen a mirror before either, because they kept staring at themselves like monkeys in a National Geographic special.
They made faces. And ‘scary’ howling sounds. And the Hen pretended to punch the mirror like a boxer in training. I silently hoped our food would come – quickly. The waitress brought drinks to the table. Chocolate milk for the older boys. And water for the baby, who acted like he’d never seen a cup of water with a straw in his young life.
He started out drinking the liquid and then switched to blowing vigorous bubbles in the cup. With the straw. Which led to the Hen blowing bubbles in his chocolate milk. And I sensed it was all going to end very badly.
Then, more water dripped onto my lap.
I willed the food to come – pronto.
‘I tooted,’ the Hen announced in an unnecessarily loud voice. Shortly afterwards the family sitting behind us vacated their booth. ‘We’re definitely clearing out the space,’ the professor grumbled.
The Gort decided to practice whistling. ‘How do I whistle?’ he asked his father. ‘You make an o with your mouth and blow, softly’ the professor tried to explain. Our oldest did his best. ‘It’s not working,’ he complained. And I remembered how, when I was little, I couldn’t whistle either. He kept at it, getting increasingly frustrated. Finally, I took matters into my own hands. I waited until he’d formed the tell-tale ‘o’ with his mouth and then I whistled. ‘I did it!’ he yelled. Beyond pleased with his accomplishment.
He tried again. I whistled again. And so it continued. With the professor and I doing our best not to burst his bubble by laughing uncontrollably.
Eventually, our food arrived. The Gort was munching on his ‘chicken’ (roasted suckling pig) when he felt compelled to ask ‘do they have toothpicks here?’ ‘Why,’ I asked. Even though I should have known better. ‘So I can get the food out of my teeth.’
Meanwhile Percy was shoving fistfuls of pizza crust in his mouth as though he hadn’t eaten in a fortnight. ‘Can we have the bill, please’ the professor begged the waitress when she returned to refill our water. (Uh, no thank you!)
‘Well, we checked that off the list,’ he concluded. ‘I’m fine with waiting another two years.’