Ready, aim, eat
By Kate Gilderdale, Stouffville Free Press
“Hey Mum – Ollie says he’s moving in with you. So far he’s packed a clementine”. Recent text message from my son, featuring a photo of my fiercely determined 33-month-old grandson standing beside a large suitcase en route to his front door.
Being a grandparent means never having to say you’re sorry about endlessly extolling the adorableness of tiny, perfect terrorists whose brilliance and beauty outshine all others.
Being a grandparent also means that by the end of a day in the company of your beloved grandchildren, you are in dire need of a crane to lift you from the floor on which you unwisely sat in order to make embarrassingly inept tractor noises and play peek-a-boo. Not to mention trying to remove life-threatening hazards posed by the table with the wobbly leg which your 9-month-old granddaughter has just homed in on as a means of rendering herself (temporarily) upright.
Calm, organized family dinners have morphed into events resembling popular depictions of the raucous banquets of the Middle Ages. Food flies in all directions, with partially chewed pasta flung carelessly over a small shoulder to the accompaniment of the ceremonial banging of the water cup on the sturdy Scandinavian high chair.
Ensuring the entire company sits at table simultaneously is harder than discerning the presence of a rational thread running through T-Rump’s foreign policy. Easter lunch was a case in point. I spent several postprandial hours scraping bits of dried avocado off the floor and my clothes, wiping fingerprints of both grandchildren from the wall of windows in the living room, and trying to avoid sitting on half-eaten chocolate bunnies cunningly concealed between sofa cushions.
Given that the prescribed etiquette of my youth in 1950s Britain – succinctly summed up as ‘children should be seen and not heard’ – had clearly long since left the building, I consulted Google for guidance on table manners in less didactic times. Turdorhistory.org provided some useful tips for dining in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, which was the closest I could come to our own anarchic affairs.
Caveats on the site include: don’t put your fingers in your ears; don’t put your hands on your head; don’t blow your nose with your hands. People were also advised against blowing their noses or wiping off sweat with their napkins, poking around on a plate in search of something edible, and putting bones back on a platter after eating the meat. The proper place for the bones, according to this enlightened thinking, was on the floor.
I felt a warm glow of empathy for the unknown writer of these rustic but realistic rules. Although there was some work to do on the first half dozen recommendations, at least the children were getting the drift as far as the final admonition was concerned. If I substituted ‘bones’ for any kind of food or liquid, that is.
As far as I know, the arbiters of modern etiquette have yet to advise on whether it is acceptable to order air strikes while eating tremendously delicious chocolate cake at your gaudily golden golf resort with your erstwhile BFF from China. But it does seem a whole new world order of appropriate behaviour is now on the menu.
And America’s current commander-in-chief certainly appears to be consistent in his belief that those he deems really, really bad people should get their just desserts.