My mom has been asking me to write this story for a few weeks now. So Mom, here goes:
My brother Nick is dating a very sweet Persian girl named Nasim. She epitomizes poise and manners. Obviously, it goes without saying my brother loves her and the rest of us do, too. Her wonderful personality is the result of a strict upbringing and a strong sense of family, as is common in her culture. It was only a matter of time before Nick wanted to introduce us to her family. So Nasim invited my entire family- my parents and siblings as well as their spouses- to dinner at her family’s home about an hour away from where we live. I was thrilled; a beautiful dinner at Nasim’s family’s gorgeous home. It sounded lovely.
And from what I understood, her family makes a big deal out of meals. They own several restaurants. The food is always amazing. She has told me that even in their home, special dinners are served on huge platters with all the fancy silverware and china. Each place setting has a charger under the plate and the dishwashing is an hours-long task after the meal has been eaten. Oh and the typical Persian fare includes lots of meat, decadent sauces and stewed vegetables. She let me know that her parents would make a vegetarian version of whatever the meal was and would also order a plain cheese pizza for my picky eaters. Good lord! Was there anything they hadn’t thought of?
One glitch was evident to me right away, however. When I received Nasim’s invitation, I quickly remembered the significance of the date. Scott was hosting a golf outing that day and would not be able to attend the dinner because he was having dinner at the clubhouse with his friends after his event. So, this whole dinner at the Persian palace would be on my shoulders. No pressure…
My anxiety grew as the day got closer. I started obsessing. What would the kids wear? I felt like they should be wearing “nicer play clothes” for such an upscale evening. I put a dress on Gracie just before we left so there would be less of a chance on an accident happening on it. And I threw two other dresses in the diaper bag as a back up. Then the boys…their typical threads were a mess from everyday wear and tear. So I got out their church clothes. They fought me on it for a second, but then I summoned the scary-mom-demon-voice and we had very few problems after that.
I packed up the car with what felt like was a long weekend’s worth of extra clothes. I loaded pb&js, sippy cups, yogurt and goldfish into a discreet cooler. Nasim had cautioned me that in her culture, her parents would be offended by people bringing other food. But I couldn’t have my children starving if they wouldn’t eat the food they were serving! So I decided this would be only for an emergency.
I double checked my list: Diapers, wipes, toys, a gift for her family as a thank you for hosting, the address; all accounted for. We were ready to go!
I turned on a movie for the kids to watch during the drive. The GPS indicated it would take about fifty minutes to get there. We were on the road only three minutes past my goal of 3:00. We needed to arrive by 4:00. And I did it all without any help from my husband. Go me!
3:10 Gracie woke up screaming to be fed. Pulled over to nurse her.
3:25 Construction caused a detour getting to the expressway.
3:55 Missed my exit getting off I-75.
4:10 Found out that the original address I had punched in was incorrect and my actual destination was twenty minutes away.
4:30 Sweating and shaking, I arrived at the massive Shushtari estate.
Nasim and my mom came out to help me unload all of our luggage. I apologized to the point I was annoying myself. Noah and Luke went running full speed up to the house. I waddled behind with Gracie snoozing like a lead weight in her car seat.
We were greeted by not only Nasim’s parents, but her brother, sister, grandma, aunt and cousin. Brass and glass gleamed from every surface of the giant vaulted room before me. Noah and Luke suddenly looked like a tornado in a museum. Thankfully, a little yappy dog scared them and they cowered into a corner before they could destroy anything. But then Noah realized he was bigger than the dog and everyone laughed as he closed it into a room.
Nasim’s parents were so kind. They took Grace’s car seat and helped me get settled in offering me food and lemonade. My nerves began to settle. For a minute. Then I realized the kids were running like uncaged animals around the grand piano with a statue of a horse on top of it. Oh God!
I grabbed one of each of their arms and pulled them aside, “You two need to RELAX or NO special treat after dinner!” I hissed through gritted teeth. I think my face was seriously frightening because Luke went into one of his famous frowns and Noah looked at the floor as if I had scarred him for life.
I released their arms and they walked with their heads down over to a tray of cookies that had been set out on a side table and proceeded to eat their “dinner.” At that point, I didn’t even care. They were being calm. I struggled to make small talk as I watched Gracie being passed from person to person knowing from her squirming and grunting that she either had to poop or was getting hungry again. And Noah and Luke were darting around the house trying to get into just a little bit of trouble, whether they were crawling under the glass coffee table or diving onto the very kid un-friendly furniture.
Of course they wanted nothing to do with the cheese pizza Nasim’s parents offered them because it wasn’t a brand they were used to. Embarrassed, I ate both pieces. Then I smuggled the boys up to Nasim’s bedroom to which I’d been assigned when I had to feed Grace. I made them sit next to me to eat their sandwiches. Luke rested his head on my shoulder and said, “Thanks, Mom. I was hungry,” when he bit into his. I kissed the top of his sweaty head.
Back downstairs, everyone was sitting down to eat the formal dinner. I had gotten Grace to sleep. I put her back in her car seat and Nasim’s dad put it on the kitchen table which he explained was so the dog wouldn’t bother her. “Oh,” I said imagining the boys knocking it off the table. He even turned on a cartoon for the boys to keep them occupied while we ate in the dining room.
The dinner was just as I had expected; extravagantly presented salmon, stewed beef topped with a baby okra and eggplant, curried chicken shish kabobs, cherry rice, a dark green leafy salad. Everything looked and smelled wonderful. The dining room was completely silent as we all began eating…until, “MOM! MOMMMM! MAMA!”
I politely, excused myself hurrying into the great room. “Yeees?” I snapped when I saw both boys sitting there calmly.
“Mom, it’s a commercial,” Noah said pointing to the TV. Ah, yes! My children do not understand how commercials work because usually they watch DVDs or Nick Jr. where the commercials are all advertisements for the next cartoon. I explained that they just need to be patient and their show would come back on. I walked calmly back to the dining room. Within five minutes, they were in the dining room too.
“The movie is over,” Noah explained and he and Luke then crawled under the table poking and kicking everyone’s legs. I took them back out to the couch and found another show. I got back to the table and almost everyone was done eating. My plate was cold. Nasim’s mom and aunt began to clear the table. I ate quickly and I heard Grace crying again. I finished eating and fed her again back upstairs. My parents watched the boys.
As I came back downstairs, I saw Noah running head first into an over-sized chair in a corner. Directly behind it was a statue of hand-blown glass birds. I heard them clink against the wall behind them. That was it. We had to leave.
I dashed up the stairs and grabbed our bags, I collected the plates of food that Nasim’s sweet
mother had packed for us to go, I shoved the boys’ feet into their shoes, said a hasty, but polite good-bye. Meanwhile my brothers loaded up our car to expedite the process and as quickly as we could, vacated the premises.
I sat behind the steering wheel, sweat covered my forehead. My shirt was soaked through. I stared at my reflection in the rear-view mirror and saw my mascara was even slightly smudged. Then I saw Noah looking at me through in the mirror and I focused on him. He started laughing hysterically at my disheveled, shell-shocked appearance. I could only laugh along then. We’d made it. No Persian antiques were harmed. The dog hadn’t been trampled. We had survived our dinner at the Palace. Time to go home.