By Patricia LaPointe
Way back when I was married to my first husband and had four kids under the age of six, we would occasionally be invited to my in-laws for dinner. This was not my favorite thing to do, but I thought it was only right to accept their invitation. Besides, with my parents living next door to them, they saw how often we ate at Mom and Dad’s.
Mother-in-law would greet us at the door dressed in a “hostess” gown, complete with long skirt and chiffon sleeves. Father-in-law in shirt and tie. Husband and I in jeans and t-shirts.
We’d arrive on time, but wouldn’t eat until the adults had their cocktails. No appetizers were served–not even crackers for the kids.
Mother-in-law would always have an elegantly-set table. She would proudly bring the roast and side dishes from the kitchen, announcing, “Hope everyone is hungry.” Duh, what else would we be?
There were four adults and four children at the table. Plastic sheets were always placed under the kids’ chairs.
When the roast arrived, it was sliced into seven rather thin pieces. Each adult received a piece, and the two kids old enough to chew meat were given a half slice each. There would sit the last slice until Mother-in-law would ask, “Who would like a half slice?” Since Father-in-law already had his fork poised to grab the last slice, my husband and I would answer, “Oh no, we’ve had enough.” I suppose if we’d asked for more, Mother-in-law would cut the piece into thirds.
We were left to gobble down the side dishes: cucumber salad, mashed potatoes, and green beans. Each bowl contained about two cups of food. The kids were often left with a tablespoon or so of the potatoes.
Obviously, dinner didn’t take long. Dessert for the adults was usually some Jello concoction. Each kid got a store-bought cookie.
The kids, God love them, would create our escape. “Can we go next door and see Grandma and Grandpa?”
We’d answer yes, perhaps a bit too eagerly.
As we crossed the lawn, we could see Mom peeking out the window. She had a clear vision of the in-laws dining room, and we knew she’d been scoping it out as we sat for dinner.
Entering my parent’s house, we’d be greeted by Mom, clad in her favorite terrycloth “house dress”. She would lead us to the dining room table filled with a ten-pound roast, about three pounds of mashed potatoes, a huge bowl of corn, and announce, “Dinner’s ready. Anybody hungry?”
It always amazed me that no child was trampled on as we raced to the table.
© 2020 Patricia LaPointe
Pat LaPointe, editor of Changes in Life, a monthly online women’s newsletter, is contributing editor of the anthology, The Woman I’ve Become: 37 Women Share Their Journeys from Toxic Relationships to Self-Empowerment.. In addition, she conducts writing workshops for women — both online and onsite. Pat’s essays and short stories have been published widely. Currently, Pat is completing her first novel, forthcoming late 2021.