Thursday, June 4, 2009

Long Gone are the Days of "Dirt and Worms"

Last night I had dinner out with my daughter. Being an only child, she probably gets to eat out in restaurants more often than most kids her age. In fact, on two occasions of late, she has taken herself to the local Thai joint and sat and had dinner alone while Doug and I were out. She brings a book and is quite comfortable on her own. (I think I was 30 before I tried that!) Over the years, she has matured into a very enjoyable dinner companion. I take this for granted most of the time, but last night it came to light through a different lens. We went out early to a small Italian place in Bloor West Village that she had been curious about for some time. I have been there a few times, so I knew it wouldn't be the cheap and cheerful bite I had in mind, but I capitulated to her suggestion and off we went. I reasoned since it was just the two of us (Doug was at a work function) it wouldn't be too painful on my pocketbook. (I have a real pet peeve about paying more than $10 for a plate of pasta, no matter how exotic the toppings and sauces). As we were early, we got a primo seat right in the window allowing us to watch the world go by (OK, maybe not the world, just local Bloor West residents), and for the first half of our meal, we enjoyed complete privacy. Just as our entrees arrived, so did what was evidently a regular customer at the restaurant. Next to our table, another small deuce sat unoccupied, the space between our table and it, barely left enough space to squeeze between. The remainder of the restaurant easily had more than two thirds of the tables available, but she insisted on sitting in the table next to us. Since she was dining alone, I knew our entire conversation would be her evening's entertainment. It was inevitable. She was an older woman - late sixties, early seventies perhaps, nicely dressed and conversed with the staff in a familiar manner. She made her presence known. Now Emma and I would need to lower our voices slightly and possibly edit our conversation to some degree. Nothing too personal, that's for sure. What I began to notice was how Emma took this intrusion without batting an eyelash. Now that I was more keenly aware of everything that we talked about, I started to realize how much she has grown up. In the not so long ago past, she might have started getting a bit fidgety waiting for her food, started playing with the sugar packets on the table, would continuously ask me what time it was, stuff like that. Instead, now she asked me questions like " Do you think you'll visit the Met this time in New York, Mom?" and "What part of Scotland did you see when you were there?". It was a real adult conversation. We talked about what role she wanted to play in her film program at camp in a few weeks. We had a catty little chuckle observing an ultra-thin woman who left her dinner companion every 10 minutes to go outside and have a smoke. "No wonder she's such a skinny bitch! Bet she can't even taste her food anymore!" She commented on her pasta dish, like a genuine gourmet critic. (the tiger shrimp needed more garlic). She wondered aloud "what kind of dessert menu do you think they have here, Mom?" (I knew that one was coming.) Although she wanted to order the triple chocolate raspberry cake, she decided to try the Tiramisu as she had always wondered what that was like and was glad that she did. Our audience of one had suggested she try the chocolate, grand marnier cheesecake that was the special dessert of the day, but Emma decided it might not be the best choice for her waistline. As I sat drinking my decaf coffee while watching her enjoy her dessert, ("Mom, you have to have a bite, it's amazing!") I couldn't help feeling proud of her. I imagined she had left a good impression on the woman beside us, as she certainly had on me. I knew before last night, she had good table manners and was capable of adult conversation, but hearing it through a stranger's ears confirmed it for me. Last night, my kid made spending $72 on a pasta dinner worth every penny. The good news is, she still likes Kraft dinner now and again! (good thing, cause that's what she'll be getting next!)

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