Last night we went out to dinner at this old pizza place that has probably been around since the 1950s. It’s still pretty cheap too. Pitchers of soda for $2.50 and iceberg lettuce salad for $2 (Calm down Mom, they have field greens!). The walls were covered with old photos of New York, gangsters and families eating pizza. The Miami-Dallas playoff game was on TV. At some point we started laughing, and then Harry imitated me laughing (like a hyena), and that made us laugh more (well, it made them laugh more, I had to ask him to stop pointing). I looked around, not wondering if we were going to be asked to tone it down, but thinking no one here is having as much fun as we are.
I was remembering when my brother and I used to go out to dinner with my grandparents at this dark Stouffers restaurant near the train-tracks. I only remember it was near the train tracks because the liquid in our glasses would shake every time one went by, which was pretty often. My grandfather could be very silly, he would shake with laughter talking about hineys and farts, but when we were out to dinner, he was serious and stern, all about good manners and behavior. This, combined with the “tinkling” water in the glass, set Pete and I off, but we tried to keep it under control.
My grandfather had this particular sigh he’d make when he was thoroughly disgusted with us, like air being let out of a punctured tire, and then under his breath he’d hiss, “this’ll be the last time I bring you here”. What did we care? It wasn’t exactly a barrel of laughs for us. Still, we tried. Once we’d get outside of the restaurant he’d pick us up and hug us and tell us he loved us. He’d say to me, you’re my little doll.
It was weird, this duplicity. Gramp was Italian and I think part of it was that he didn’t want to draw attention to himself. When he was a kid and it wasn’t cool to be a foreigner, he was just desperate to fit in. He didn’t want to act crazy in front of someone who was going to judge him for it.
But then, he also really wanted to draw attention to himself. We’d get perfectly dressed up and coiffed to go out, sometimes he and Pete wore matching jackets. He wanted us to behave and act polite and not giggle and guffaw and point at each other, just exactly so everyone could see how fantastic we all were. It was too much to ask though. We couldn’t give a good impression and still enjoy ourselves.
I wonder if he saw us causing a commotion at the restaurant now, if he would be ashamed, or if he would think how far the next generation has evolved.