Scene One: Various crowded (or not-so-crowded) restaurants in and around Yosemite, where the staff struggles to find room for our party of eight, so we sit at adjoining tables or booths: four grownups and a happy, growly baby at one, three “big kids” at another. The kids are delighted to be on their own. They color with intense concentration, push their pictures aside for a few moments to eat their dinners, and then color some more. The grownups relax and drink their wine. The baby says “rar-rar-rar” and chews her spoon.
Scene Two: Our dinner table at home, where we are just starting to dig into our pasta with roasted cauliflower.
The players (as usual): Tony, me, Ben and Eli
Eli, pausing before a bite, sitting up a bit straighter: “So Ben, how was your day?”
Ben (taken aback for a moment, then smiling): “Good. [pause] How was your day?”
Eli (delighted): “Good.”
They return to their meals. Tony and I smile and don’t say a word, enjoying the moment.
Scene Three: Our table at home, again; this time we’re eating pasta with chard.
Ben, stuffing a bite into his mouth: “Eli?”
Eli pauses, looks over at his brother and gazes at him blankly as Ben, his mouth full, makes an unintelligible remark.
Eli (paraphrasing a line he’s heard us use daily): “Ben? maybe you should swallow that bite and then talk; I didn’t understand your words.”
Of course, it’s not always so polite around here; just last night, with Tony out, I left the table –taking the boys’ half-full plates with me — when they wouldn’t stop their shrieking contest. But every day it gets to be a bit more like dining with people than with animals. At the very least, we have come a long way from the days of grabbed bites while walking a screaming, colicky baby in circles around the dinner table, and for that, I am truly grateful.