I think it was called Hungry Mother. Hungry Mamma? Something like that. It was in Cambridge, a half hour drive from my sister’s house, or room I should say. That night it took an hour. My father is still learning how to utilize a GPS productively. There was a lot of cursing that turned into laughing after tight turns and close calls.
The house my sister’s room sits in, is dark and creaky. There is a flight of stairs that we must climb to get to the front door, where there are various coats hanging that are much warmer than anything you would use when traipsing through the sandy beaches of LA. The old, thin glassed windows led to a colorful world of autumn. They allowed air that was good for the soul into the house through their thin panes. Her room sat right beside the wine rack hanging on the wall in the short hallway that connected her room to the kitchen. It was filled, mostly, by reds. Every morning I entered the cluttered kitchen that smelled just a bit further than fresh, it looked as though Allison had disappeared. The first morning a cucumber sat on a wooden cutting board on her marble counter. A shiny knife sat next to it. The second morning a bottle of the wine sat on the table with a glass almost empty sitting next to it. There was one sip left. Chapstick smudged the lip of the glass. The third morning a bowl of yogurt and berries sat on the wooden table. It would have made the perfect picture from up above. One bite had been taken and the rest left. The berries bright on the white yogurt, contrasting with the dark shades of wood below it. She was anonymous. Allison is the decorator of this quaint, old house that creaks. She has put her life on the walls and has told her story through the paintings, and carpets, and books.
We left Allison’s house with my sister’s room within. We gave ourselves too much time. We were an hour and half early. Drinking was our only option as the weather outside was not warm enough for our California wardrobe. My mom chose a white wine. My sister, dad and I ordered beers. Mine tasted like dessert. They out ordered me. I experienced extreme drinker remorse. We went to the restaurant that was once a house similar to Allison’s. It felt progressive and modern inside. The walls white, the decorations minimalist. A young lady showed us to our seat upstairs. Our waiter was thin and tall. He was bald, exposing the shape of his brain. He wore glasses and his lips were naturally pursed.
“Can I start you all off with some drinks?”
“Can I have a Dr. Pepper?”
I blurted this without thinking of the classy establishment we were sitting in. My family looked and laughed.
“We don’t generally sell soda other than Cola. But we may have some little cans in the back. I’ll check for you.”
He was having a hard time keeping a straight face.
I felt the need to defend my preference
“There’s 24 flavors in one can!”
There are actually 23, but I had to hold my ground and hope that nobody knew the difference. This provoked laughter once more. I wasn’t sure if it was the atmosphere or my age that caused this to be funny, but I laughed, thankful for my sweet beer and its lubricating qualities.
The rest ordered a bottle of white wine to share. I was the child tonight. I was content with that role. So was my family. We had given up trying to present as something we were not. We were tipsy and lose and having fun.
The night went on. We ordered rabbit and squab and catfish and lamb. My sister attempted to order sweetbreads. Our waiter rescued her.
“Do you know what sweetbreads are?”
“I feel like I am on TV or something.”
Our waiter said this with a smile that had loosened his pursed lips. It was a small restaurant and our laughter took over. My little can of Dr. Pepper sat on the table. It was an indicator of the night.
He explained that sweetbread was some part of the calf that is not generally consumed. My sister made a face and changed her order quickly. The waiter giggled, wondering at our freedom of expression and our ability to be so ridiculous in a very anti ridiculous environment.
My dad raised his glass.
“Cheers to you guys for being out there amongst them. You are both in a much better place than either your mother or I were in at your age.”
My mother began to protest
“I was in a deep dark cave with a six pack from the age of 22 to, I don’t know, 26.” He continued.
At this point my mom agreed to being “a mess” at our age. I smiled, thankful. It gave me hope. My life felt messy. But in an exciting way, most of the time. In a, to much is possible, kind of way.
The meal was nearly over and the food had been delicious. Our plates were now empty as we decided on the parts that tasted the best and discussed the subtle and exaggerated differences in each dish.
“That menu forces you outside of your comfort zone.” My dad commented.
“It forces you to face your fears” I said. I decided to dramatize.
My dad smiled, exposing his chipped front tooth that was slightly gapped from his other.
Our waiter came over to clear the empty plates. He asked if we had liked everything.
“Your menu really forces you to face your fears, as the writer over here worded it.” My dad said nodding his head in my direction. He gave me credit for my exaggerated view of life. I blushed slightly. My cheeks give me away. Sometimes they give when there is nothing to give.
We leave the restaurant that was now crowded, people taking up every space available on a Thursday night. The chilled air met my warm cheeks and cured them of their natural blush. We walked to the tiny blue Spark with our shoulders hunched to our ears and our hands busy keeping our inapt jackets closed.