My Family

To the Young Man on What Was Obviously a First or Second Date, Seated Near Us Last Night…

You were doomed from the start, you know.

Well, maybe not from the start, but you were definitely headed for trouble when the hostess seated you at the table next to ours.

But how could you know? Your thoughts were undoubtedly focused on the girl you had brought with you, not on the little family to your right.

You probably didn’t even give us a second glance or second thought: the mother and father sitting opposite each other, and the little blond boy seated to the mother’s left.

We were probably enjoying our beverages and breadsticks at that moment. The little blond boy kept asking for “more!” even when his mouth was stuffed with bits of bread already. He probably liked the garlic salt painted on top of the little loaves. (We were all at The Olive Garden, as you may or may not recall.)

The mother’s back was to you, so she never even got a look at your face. To be honest, she wouldn’t have known that yours was a DATE, if her husband, facing her and, therefore, you, hadn’t clued her in.

And the little blond boy is too young to understand what a DATE is…and even if he had some inkling, he is far too young to care about how disconcerting it might be for a slightly nervous couple to be stared at by a little blond boy with bread stuffed in his chipmunk cheeks.

The parents (especially the father, who, I believe, had a lot of sympathy for you) tried to bring the little boy’s attention back to the table, to the food, the appetizer, the salad and soup, the entrees…and they were successful for a time. The little boy is a delight to take to restaurants, as he apparently enjoys every food offered to him. He loved the seafood dip…enjoyed bits of his father’s salad and his mother’s soup…so much so that by the time the entrees arrived, he wasn’t all that hungry any more. He wasn’t quite as fidgety as he had been when they first arrived (you probably weren’t witness to the crayon-eating moment or the father’s desperate attempts to entice the little boy to color on the paper rather than toss the paper on the floor again).

So anyway, while you and your date were eating your meals and attempting to overcome nervousness and silence with forced conversation and awkward smiles, the little blond boy decided he didn’t want any more food (“Ah-dai” translates to “all done”) and chose, instead, to turn almost completely around in his high chair and stare at you and the girl you were with. Mostly at the girl.

At first, the mother was too happy to be afforded the opportunity to eat uninterrupted to notice her little son’s tactless behavior. The father noticed. The father nodded toward the little boy and glanced at you and your date and whispered, almost desperately, to the mother that “they’re on a date” – as if that would get the mother to stop eating her penne and artichoke hearts and chicken and roasted red peppers and tomatoes and diced pancetta in a smokey cream sauce…huh-uh. Don’t think so. She’s eating for two, by the way.

So the little boy stared. And then he said, loudly, to your date: “Hi!” And when that failed to elicit a response, he repeated it. “HI!” And repeated it again. Much louder. “HI!” Your date was a good sport – she smiled back and said Hi to the little boy. People at a couple of other tables nearby smiled; some even laughed. The father of the little boy tried in vain to distract the little boy. The father’s smile was growing tense. The mother, whose face you could not see, was amused.

And then, encouraged by your date’s friendly smile, the little boy said “Hi!” again and smiled, and then, still smiling at her, proceeded to shake his head back and forth at a very rapid pace, which sent his straight blond hair flying out around his head, forming a large, slightly blurry, blond disk.

Your date still smiled, but conversation at your table, such as it had been, was definitely over. The little boy repeated his “Hi!”-and-head-shaking routine. Again, and again, and again. Occasionally he looked at you, but he is bright enough to know his audience, and the girl was IT. So he continued to – for lack of a better, more age-appropriate word – flirt with your date.

And the father grew more tense, and the mother just sat in her chair, watching the little blond boy and laughing uncontrollably.

Finally, the father suggested taking the little boy for a walk, just to get him away from the table and to leave you and your date in peace. The mother, who, to be honest, was far less sympathetic to your plight, stayed at the table and asked the waiter to wrap up the rest of her dinner. She ordered dessert to go.

By the time the father returned with the little boy, and the mother stood up to put her coat on, you and your date were gone. The father was relieved. The mother was -and is – still amused.

But she sympathizes…. It is hard to ignore a loud, friendly greeting, a big smile, dancing blue eyes, and the impressive display of blond hair flying out in a circle about one’s head.

How could you – or anyone – compete with that?

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