Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Dinner for 2. Make that 4. No, wait...6. Actually, 8!

When our family was young I always knew where everyone was -- and everyone was always either at home in my care or (very occasionally) away from home in the care of someone who I knew. My days consisted of mothering, nurturing and nesting from morning to night, and back then my identity was 100% "wife and mother." It was extremely rare that fewer than four kids (and often more, with neighborhood kids) were in my care, and even more rare that Tom and I had a single moment to ourselves.

Fast forward about 16 years. These days, Elisabeth lives in Seattle and travels incessantly for her job, Peter and Danelle go to school and to work, and live mostly at Danelle's (a few blocks away, but still), and Aleks' and Kat's days are filled with school, work and friends. Because the kids' schedules are so varied, I never know who will be home for dinner. Realistically, on any given night, Tom and I are often alone for dinner, and we're lucky if one kid is home to have dinner with us. And unlike our family dinners of years past, I often have no idea what we'll have for dinner until the very last minute.

Shortly after I got home from the job fair today, Aleks and Kat returned home from school. Neither of them were scheduled to work tonight, so I knew there'd be four of us for dinner. Four? No problem -- we'll heat up some pumpkin soup that Tom made a few nights ago (yum!). In a very rare move for me, I decided to take a nap, as I haven't been feeling well lately. (Hopefully it's only allergies or asthma that are making breathing so painful.)

I woke up to shreiking. "Ooooooooh, how's my dooogie, dooogie, dooogie? Yeeeees! I wuuuuv you!" Stomp, stomp, stomp up the steps. Kitchen cabinets opening and slamming. Chomp. Buuuurp. "Kiiiiity! Meooooow!"

Elisabeth's home.

"Moooooooom?! You heeere?"

Struggling to maintain consciousness, I whispered, "Unnnngh." I heard, "You OK, Mama?" but promptly fell back asleep.

I don't know how much time passed when I heard, "OK, Peter. Let's do this." Peter and Danelle had come home because Peter had an "appointment" with Elisabeth for some organic chemistry tutoring.

Stumbling out of bed, I did a new dinner head-count. Once Tom got home, we'd be seven. Pumpkin soup would no longer cut it -- and the last thing I felt like doing (I swear I had a fever) was cook a big dinner.

Tom arrived home and Elisabeth's cell phone rang simultaneously. "Oh, come on over, Scott! You can have dinner over here!"

Nope -- pumpkin soup definitely won't cut it.

Tom walked in the door and was thrilled to see the whole family together for...

"...dinner." I mumbled. "Could you maybe go to the store and pick something up? I can't..." So off Tom went to pick up ravioli, vodka sauce, French bread, salad and a pumpkin pecan cheese cake.

For eight. And, bless his heart, he cooked it all up within a half hour and all eight of us squeezed around the kitchen table, enjoying each others' company and laughing up a storm.

Which hurts my throat and my chest, but it's well worth it because these days are becoming fewer and further between. Why, next summer they'll all be g-...

Sigh. I really don't feel so hot.

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Goofball said...

Wow, what a flexibility. I like it when people can just walk in and out in families and always feel welcome. On the other hand, I am not raised like that (I need to warn my mom like 24h in advance if I'll come by and want food as well) and I think i'd stress out myself if my number of dinner guests multiplies unexpectedly. And yet I want to be as flexible as you!

Jen said...

I hope you're feeling all better now. I love spontaneous gatherings like that, but I've grown out of the habit with none of our exchange students home.

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