pegkerr: (candle)
When I had moved out in my twenties, I needed a kitchen table. My Mom and Dad brought one to me at my apartment. I still remember them carrying it across that long parking lot on a hot summer's day. I'm not quite sure where they got it. Used, maybe, or perhaps from a relative. It was painted an ugly shade of thick brown paint.(Edited to add: Rob remembers that there was a thick coat of dark green OVER the dark brown.)

I spent weeks stripping and sanding that table down to the bare wood, working in the outdoor patio behind Rob's apartment (this was before we were married). It took so long because I had to dig into the crevices in the legs with the edge of a nail file to chase every last bit of brown paint out in the detailing of the lathe-turned grooves. You can still see tiny bits of the paint, like shadows, proof that I was not an expert used furniture refinisher by any means. I don't remember what the wood was, but I stained it a red maple color and covered it with a protective gloss. I remember how vexed I was by a stray hair that floated in on a breeze and caught in the gloss and affixed itself there, like an insect caught in amber.

We moved it to our first apartment together, and it became our first table. When we moved again, to our house where the girls were born, the table was put in the dining room. Rather too humble, aesthetically, for the space, but it fit perfectly, and when we covered it with a cloth, and put the best dishes on it, it suited us well. Two leaves could be pulled out from the ends to add length whenever we had guests.

Over the years, of course, there were scars. Delia the toddler banged her spoon incessantly, and so there is a patina of half-moon shaped scars on her side of the table. (We always sat at the same places.) Once, someone put a candlestick on the table, and some liquid spilled and soaked the felt cushion underneath, leaving a stain which marked the varnish. There is the smear of nail polish where Delia was experimenting, and I couldn't rub it off. I didn't want to try anything stronger that would take off the finish. I'll admit I wasn't always scrupulously quick about wiping away everyday stains.

It's used, battered, and hardly an heirloom. But we loved that table. We grew our family around it, and told our jokes, and traded our bon mots and cracked each other up. We had raging arguments, often about whether onions must be eaten or not. Fiona banged the back of her head against the back of her chair 1,346,234 times and never never remembered not to do it the next night. We ate our Christmas breakfasts and celebrated twelfth night there. We brought various hopeful Boys to join us. Fiona perfected her pterodactyl mating call there. We held hands around it and blessed our meals, and cried and screamed and raged and loved each other there.

We didn't have a hearth, so we used a table instead.

My mom is moving from the apartment she shared with Dad to a smaller senior complex. She had to downsize, and so she offered us her dining room table, the one I grew up with. It, too, has a rich family history, and many happy memories. It is bigger than ours: we will have to take leaves out and put the ends down, and we can't sit in the same configuration, because you can't put your feet under the drop leaf ends.

But. It, too, is the family table with a lot of lovely memories, and I hated to see it go to some strangers. Yes, we will take it, I said, and when the girls leave home, Rob and I can take all the leaves out, drop the sides, and it will work as a long narrow table for just the two of us. And then one of the girls can take our table when they leave to set up their own household.

Mom is going to be using the old oak table she had in her kitchen, the one she received from her mother-in-law (yet another generation's worth of memories).

So I have taken the legs off our table...

Dissassembling the table

We will have to do our Valentine boxes breakfast Japanese-style, on the floor, tomorrow morning,

Dissassembling the table

and then hustle it into the basement, so the dining room is clear when the truck brings Mom's old dining room table to our house.

And our old table will wait, patiently, in the basement, until either Fiona or Delia move out, painstakingly reassemble it, and gather friends and a new family around it to make a new generation of memories.
pegkerr: (Tea dammit)
Fiona's heartfelt lament at dinner:

"All my favorite television programs are British. All my slang is British. I wear a red coat to the dojo. But I don't like tea!

I utterly fail as an Angliphile."

Fiona

May. 2nd, 2011 06:05 pm
pegkerr: (Default)
I eyed Fiona at dinner, who was gazing blankly into space like a doe in the headlights.

"You have a tired, honey."

She turned her limpid gaze to me. "I have a tired. It went away for a little while this morning, and I almost felt like a normal person. And then it came back and brought all its friends and neighbors."

Poor kid. I've never seen her so flattened, for so long.
pegkerr: (Default)
Fiona: "I have a red coat now. That means I am entirely entitled to speak in a British accent whenever I want."
pegkerr: (Fiona)
A relic of Fiona's overnight sleepover party this weekend was the mini diorama of plastic dinosaurs at the dinner table beside Fiona's place setting. We sat down to eat dinner, but Fiona paid little attention to what was on her plate but instead amused herself in a sotto voce dialogue between the Tyrannosaurus Rex and the Stegosaurus.

"Fiona," I sighed after this went on for awhile, "eat your bratwurst."

Fiona looked at her plate and blinked as if failing entirely to grasp the meaning of its contents. She did not get much sleep the last two nights.

"I'm not surprised you're more interested in the dinosaurs," I added. "You're rather like a dinosaur yourself."

She gave me a skeptical look. "In what way?"

"As in brain about the size of a walnut. Not capable of much conscious thought."

Rob started to laugh.

"I'm capable of conscious thought!" she said indignantly. "It just doesn't...stick around very long." She looked around the table. "What? You're all looking at me."

"Your mom wants you to eat your bratwurst," Rob said, "and I want to eat your bratwurst if you're not going to eat it yourself."

"And I," said Delia, "am looking at you because I'm sitting on the opposite side of the table from you and facing your direction."
pegkerr: (Fiona)
At the beginning of the school year, I got the notice from that wonderful little organization Project Success, with the calendar of dates of college tours. They had a trip to Chicago to visit schools over MEA weekend and other trips throughout the year. I told Fiona she should do the MEA weekend trip.

"But that's the weekend of the church retreat! I really want to go to that!"

I cursed under my breath. Ordinarily a parent wouldn't object to a child going on a church retreat, but these Project Success trips are a really great opportunity, and I want Fiona to get started looking at some colleges. "Look, there's no school on November 6, and they're doing a trip to the University of Wisconsin at Madison. It's only $35! That's a real bargain. I honestly think you should go."

She agreed, so she filled out the form and I gave her a check for $35. About a week later, I asked her whether she had turned in the form.

She looked blank. "I think so."

That niggled at me. About a week later, I asked again. "Did you turn in that form and that check? Are you sure?"

"Well, I don't have the form in my backpack anymore, so I must have."

Another month went by. I heard nothing from Project Success about the arrangments for the trip. I asked Fiona a week ago: "Are you sure you turned everything in, Fiona?"

"I must have, Mommy."

"Well, I want you to go to the office at school to doublecheck."

A couple nights ago, I got a phone message on my cell phone from an insurance agent reminding Rob that he had been requested to contact them with Delia's Social Security number. (This was necessary for them to close the insurance file on the car accident he was in last year with Delia.) Apparently they had asked him for it a month ago. I told Rob about it, and he told me he'd call the agent with the number.

Yesterday I had another message from the agent on my cell phone. I called home immediately and told Rob to call the agent right now and give her the number.

When I got home for dinner last night, I asked Rob whether he had made the call. Of course he hadn't.

Of course, some of you will say, Peg, why don't you call the agent? Well, yes, I could. But damn it, it was his car accident. He promised he would call. He's the one home all day. With the phone. And the records with Delia's Social Security number right in front of him. It was his job to make the call. Call me crazy, but I would just like to not have to be the one who is always responsible for getting things done.

I pressed my lips together very firmly and went to make dinner. As I was putting the plates on the table, I asked Fiona casually what she had found out about when they were leaving for Madison tomorrow.

"Oh, I'm not going," she said. "I guess the roster was already filled up with people by the time I signed up."

I stared at her. "Fiona, I gave you the form and check six weeks ago. How could that not be soon enough?"

She looked at me with guilt written all over her face. "Maybe, um . . . maybe I didn't turn in the check?"

I gave her that look that mothers have been giving brainless teenage daughters for all eternity.

She went to her backpack, rooted around, and slowly pulled out the check. The look on her face said it all as her eyes met mine.

"I asked you again and again to go to the office to verify that they had it," I said icily. "I guess that means that you never did so. Right?" My voice rose to unacceptable levels. "Right?!"

"Hey," Rob said, stepping in at just the wrong moment to play the peacemaker, "that's enough."

I gave him a look that could have melted glass. I looked at Fiona and it was all I could do to keep from screaming, "You're just like your father!" I grabbed my plate off the table. "I'm eating upstairs. In my office. NOT WITH ANY OF YOU."

After a half an hour (I was too upset to eat the dinner I had made), Fiona and I left for a meeting at the school. It was, ironically enough, about what juniors and their parents need to know about the college admission process. I drove silently, not trusting myself to speak. We walked into the school, and then I stopped dead in my tracks and said to her, my voice shaking, "I want you to go to college. I want you to grow up and be an adult. But you cannot go to college and be treated like an adult until you start acting more responsibly. Your biggest challenges are keeping yourself organized and following through on tasks. Your Dad has trouble with a lot of these things. It has held him back professionally, and it has caused enormous pain and heartburn with me."

She nodded. "I'm sorry," she whispered. She gave me a hug.

We went into the auditorium, where we learned about what lies ahead.

Ready or not, here it comes.

What I did today to make the world a better place )

Beef stew

Nov. 1st, 2009 07:21 pm
pegkerr: (Family)
I don't know why, but I haven't made my Mom's beef stew for a long time. I made it last weekend, and my family was almost offended: "Why have you been hiding this recipe all this time?" Rob immediately went out and bought more chuck roast and more or less ordered me to make it this weekend, too.

I had a glass of wine before dinner. My stomach was quite empty, and it hit me unusually hard. Frankly, after half a glass, I was hammered.

Fiona is helping me compose this entry. I couldn't do it without her help.

Fiona was quite ADD. She waxed poetic about the stew; maybe it was the lingering influence of Halloween: "The carrots are like fingers. And the potatoes are like brains. And the meat is meat."

Delia, indignantly: "Fiona! We're about to eat."

Later, during the dinner, about at the point where I, as usual, insist that Fiona drink her milk, I remarked, "Oh, wow, I'm really hammered."

Fiona: "We love you anyway, Mommy." She came over and gave me a hug. "Because you're awesome and you're a good writer and you're strong and your hair is soft."

I held onto her tightly and hugged her. I could hear her heart beat under my ear. The wine made me ridiculously maudlin, and suddenly I felt tears in my eyes. "I'm really glad I have children."

Delia came over to join the hug. "We're really glad you had us, too."

We eventually all went back to our places. Delia engaged Daddy in a discussion about the vileness of onions. I gazed around the table in tipsy pride as Delia and Rob argued and Fiona picked shreds of beef out of her braces and refused to drink her milk. Rob informed me that HE would be eating the stew leftovers this time. He was downright territorial about them.

They're my family. And I love them.

(Fiona had to point out the numerous spelling errors the first time I wrote this. Believe me, there were a lot.)
pegkerr: (You'll eat it and like it)
Me (requesting feedback on a new recipe): "So what do you think of the Shepherd's pie?"

Fiona: "I like it better than the taco pie recipe. The strawberries helped, I think." (This sounds like a strange addition to a Shepherd's pie, but she was actually referring to the strawberries which topped the side spinach salad).

I gave her an amused look. "Strawberries are magical like that."

Fiona: "There is little in this world that cannot be vastly improved by the ingestion of strawberries."

Me: "Eat your spinach, Fiona. You need your folate."

Rob (helpfully): "The spinach is better with the strawberries."

Fiona (wrinkling her nose): "The strawberries are much better without the spinach."
pegkerr: (You'll eat it and like it)
Me (the woman who never learns): "Fiona, are you actually picking out every single bit of red pepper in that spaghetti sauce?"

Fiona (the indignant, self-righteous teenager): "No!"

Rob (the snickering onlooker): "Just all the ones she can find."
pegkerr: (Default)
I eyed Rob at dinner tonight. "Is that a Delia scarf?"

He had draped around his neck a multicolored knitted scarf. Most of it was rainbow yarn, and it had a black border on just one end. Even more odd, it had . . . three tassels, in a yarn that did NOT match, two on one end, and one (in one corner) on the other.

"It is indeed. I'm wearing it proudly."

"It's ugly," Delia said, giving the scarf a critical look, as if she had nothing whatsoever to do with its creation.

"It's not ugly," Fiona said stoutly. "It's just not in accordance with the social norms."

I cracked up.

"This is Minnesota," Rob said, "where people wear orange hats with duck flaps. A scarf like this is entirely within the social norms."

"Well, it IS a little odd to wear it at the dinner table," I pointed out.

Rob smiled. "I'm sitting here at the dinner table wearing a knitted scarf, and there's another person wearing a hoodie, and another person wearing a bathrobe, and another wearing jewelry, dressed to go out."

"And as the person wearing the bathrobe," Fiona said, "let me just say that I'm really enjoying it. This is the first day I haven't had to go anywhere for the past several weeks."

I snickered. "This is SO going on Livejournal."
pegkerr: (Default)
Fiona said, "I got into a fight with Corwyn today."

"What about?"

"We were having a disagreement over a term I used: splendid rage. Corwyn said it was an oxymoron, and that there was no such thing."

I snorted. "Of course there is. I have them all the time."

Rob rolled his eyes. "Well, I wasn't going to say it.
pegkerr: (Fiona)
At dinner each night, we go around the table, and everyone says what was the best thing about the day. When her turn came, Fiona said:

"I read some awesome books, and I got all my chores done--"

"--although it took some serious nagging," Rob put in wryly.

Fiona looked mildly offended. "Hey, it only took a little bit of nagging. Not a serious amount."

I snickered. "Darling, determining what constitutes 'serious nagging' versus 'a little bit of nagging' is a call that can only be made by the parent, not the child.

Fiona looked mildly embarrassed. "Yeah, well. The kitchen floor and I are not friends."

"I'm sure that in the case of the kitchen floor," I told her (thinking of all the times she's blown off that particular chore) "it's mutual."

The Game

Feb. 13th, 2008 06:38 pm
pegkerr: (Fiona)
The girls and I went to the church soup supper tonight. I sat down at the long table across from Fiona with my plate and started eating.

"I lost the Game," she said pensively, staring out into space.

"What game is this?" I asked.

"It's the Game."

"How did you lose it?"

"By thinking of it."

My eyebrows went up. She smiled. "See, the point of the Game is to get as many people playing it as possible."

"How do you win it?"

"You don't. There is no way to win the Game. You can only lose the Game. Whenever you think of it, you say aloud, 'I've lost the Game.' And that reminds everyone around you of the Game, and then they've lost the Game, too. And then everyone has a half hour in which they try to forget all about. And that's it--until the next time you remember it." She smiled at me.

I thought this over and laughed a little. "Teenagers."

"Yeah. All my friends are playing it now."

"But now that you've told me about it . . ." I said slowly.

She smiled even more broadly. "Yeah, exactly. You're playing the Game now, too."

I started to laugh. I laughed harder and harder. "And since I've thought of it, now I've lost the Game."

[livejournal.com profile] choralgirl sat down next to me. "Lost what game?" she asked.

Fiona and I looked at her. And smiled. "Well, you see," I said to her, "the point of the Game is to get as many people playing it as possible . . . "

(You do realize what this means, friends list? Yes. You are now all playing the Game.)

Dinner

Feb. 11th, 2008 06:22 pm
pegkerr: (Default)
We sat down to dinner, but right after we said grace, Fiona managed to upend her paper plate, flopping her cheese pizza all over her lap.

"Geez, I've been so clumsy lately," she said, napkining herself off. "I keep hitting myself and running into people and making messes--"

I looked at her with some amusement. "You're a teenager."

"And I keep getting attacked by the flying waffles."

I stared. "Flying waffles?"

"Yeah. Dad stuffed the freezer so full after the last grocery run that every time I open the freezer door, the waffles jump out and attack me."

"Nobody expects the flying waffles," Rob said portentously.

"Just like nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition," Fiona said brightly.

A pause. Fiona began singing softly under her breath, "Spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam . . ."

"No," I said, trying to glare, but with my mouth twitching.

She shrugged and then after another pause began singing in the highest, squeakiest voice imaginable, "Doom, doom, doom, doom, doom, doom. . ."

I stared at her and began cracking up. "What's that from?"

"Invader Zim."


pegkerr: (Fiona)
Every night, we go around the table and everyone says at least one good thing that happened that day. Fiona, uncharacteristically, wasn't able to come up with anything.

Rob: "Didn't you finish reading that fanfic story? Did you like it?"
Fiona (shrugging): "Meh. I've read it before."
Peg (eying her askance): "'Meh'? You're turning into. . ."
Fiona (brightly): A monosyllabic teenager?"

Rob and I cracked up.

Fiona: "How annoying that you can't be monosyllabic and use the word 'monosyllabic.' It has five syllables." (crosses her arms in mock teenager disgust).
pegkerr: (Fiona)
Fiona had her double-black stripe class tonight, and it was a toughie. I got exhausted just from watching what [livejournal.com profile] pazlazuli put them through. Fiona spent half of dinner with her face literally buried facedown in the tablecloth, she was so whipped. "I'm convinced it's all an evil and nefarious plot," she mumbled seriously. "They save side kicks for the end of class because they're the hardest ones to do when you're tired."

[livejournal.com profile] pazlazuli, she's onto you.

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