Monday, December 28, 2009

It's important to know your Heroes

Whenever we went out to eat as a family, it was a big crowd. Six of us. We take up a lot of real estate in a restaurant, so, as parents, it was important to us to have well behaved children with good manners who were kept engaged at the table. More than once, over the years, people have approached our table and remarked that they enjoyed watching us enjoy each other's company with well mannered young children.

What we especially appreciated was the unspoken rule that once you were at the table, you stayed at the table. It created, both at home and out, a captive family group where we shared a lot, told stories when visitors were eating with us and allowed everyone have input in conversation if they wanted to, encouraging the kids to speak up. As they grew into their teens, we really wanted to keep conversation going---about anything!

When dining out, beverage orders were always "Just water, please" to keep down the tab at the end of the meal, but frequently we'd be out for a special occasion, so we would order mocktails for the four kids. The girls would get a Shirley Temple each, and the boys would get the male counterpart and Stephen would order wine or martinis for the adults. As the meal progressed and various courses of the dinner were presented and served we'd relax and engage in lively conversations. At a particular favourite restaurant that we frequented, we became familiar with the owners (good Greeks) and they never rushed us through a meal to flip the table.

Overall, our dining out experiences were good times. We really liked how Andrew would open up, chat a little more, and share more than usual at these times since he generally would keep to himself more than the girls or Justin. A result of birth order, no doubt.

Recently we had a friend and her teen son visiting and took them to a familiar restaurant after a big day of sightseeing in New York City. Eager to share the fine menu and extensive wine list, Stephen ordered for us, including a 'kiddie cocktail' for the teen like we used to for our boys. The waiter took the drink orders, but moments later the M'aitre D approached and asked if Stephen had ordered for the table. He recounted the drink order, and said he could not serve young Jacob. Confused, I pressed him, and said we were all having wine, but we wanted Jacob to toast with us after a good but long day, so he could enjoy a "Rob Roy".

Apparently, a Rob Roy, named for the great Scottish folk hero, is prepared with scotch, sweet vermouth and bitters.

"No, no!" I exclaimed! "We've ordered this dozens and dozens of times for our kids; we used to get Shirley Temples for Kathryn and Olivia, and Rob Roys for Justin and Andrew!"

Our M'aitre D gently advised me that the drink I was referring to for the boys was a Roy Rogers, named for the singing cowboy; just Coca-Cola and grenadine syrup. I'd confused the two names many, many years ago. Our Greek restaurant hosts never made the distinction, and always presented the Rob Roys to Stephen. (A Greek would never insult Stephen by pointing out the mistake. Instead, they took the order, but delivered the drinks to Stephen time after time--respecting their customer, while obeying strict New Jersey drinking laws.) In hindsight, I now see why Andrew was more open and relaxed on those occasions.

I have a vague notion that he even said, "I love you guys." to all of us at the end of one meal. I just hope he'll never have to say, "Hi, my name is Andrew, and I really don't know why, but I'm an alcoholic." ....

"Hi Andrew"

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