Last Night at Lobster Shack

Cousin Jay and his wife Heather joined self, hubby, Dearest Mum, aunt and uncle for dinner at Lobster Shack. Heather, who is a beautiful blonde girl and the savior of not only her husband but of aunt’s entire family, is hugely pregnant. Her baby shower is next week at Il Fornaio in Burlingame, and self has already ordered a stroller shield from Babies R Us.

Jay is aunt’s middle child. He’s working for a start-up. As usual when dining with Dearest Mum, there is no such thing as a simple dinner where people sit down in one place and eat whatever is in front of them. Instead, meals are exceedingly complicated affairs where all kinds of power plays are enacted.

For example:

Dearest Mum must take a bite from everyone’s plate. This is absolutely imperative. Exhibit A: Jay and Heather arrived after the rest of us had finished eating, and ordered for themselves individual cups of clam chowder. When the chowder arrived, Dearest Mum’s eyes lit up: “Can I try?” she asks. And Jay (What a good boy! So expert at reading signals!) surrenders his cup without a murmur, saying only, “You can have it. I’ll share with Heather.”

Dearest Mum must be allowed to order anyone around. For instance, even if self is bending over to take a big bite out of a fried scallop, when Dearest Mum says it is time for her to get up and get water for her cousins, she’d better drop that scallop and hot-foot it to the water table. And so the table is constantly alive with movement, and the waitress’ eyes are spinning, and extra plates must be requested (Dearest Mum: “So we can share”), over and over, until the very end of the meal. And self must not look up, not ever, because she did so once, last night, and saw the entire restaurant staring at the table where sat self, Dearest Mum, hubby (amiably smashed from, oh, four servings of beer: way to go, hubby!), aunt (who protested she could not eat a thing), uncle (who is deaf and who cannot hear a thing, naturally, but persists in engaging in conversation), Jay (wondering why waitress refused to come to our table when he called), and blonde Heather (sweetly smiling, with rather glazed look on her young face).

Anyhoo, the dramatics got self pretty excited, so that she found herself talking and talking and talking. And Jay concurred with self that his mother and self’s mother have the energy of _____ (rampaging elephants?) Even though they are at least two decades older than either of us. And even though self knows full well that aunt and Dearest Mum are truly exhausted, it is imperative that one act as if one is constantly in awe of their tremendous funds of energy. And say such things as: “I don’t know how you do it!” or “I just can’t keep up with you!” And unfortunately, self only realized this recently (or after she was married, at any rate), for when she was growing up in the Philippines, she was buffered from Dearest Mum by the presence of Dad/brothers/sister/maids/drivers and diverse cousins, uncles and aunts, and never had to actually spend more than a few minutes of each day in Dearest Mum’s presence, and so was not subjected to this exhausting one-upmanship which seems to be a trait of Dearest Mum’s family (while Dear Departed Dad’s Bacolod family was completely “laid back” — oh, those lazy Negrenses!)

After dinners like that, self’s nerves go on over-drive and she has to stay up half the night, trying to block out cross-currents of emotion. In the meantime, self surmises that son has left his hotel in Madrid and must now be in Valladolid. Chances are good that she won’t hear from him again until he heads for Paris, a month from now. Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

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