I was surprised that Wow let me feed him a small wedge of pickled beet. When he reached for his milk, the pink juice that stained his chin and shirt front smeared across the top of glass tumbler, ran to the bottom, and turned the remaining finger breath of milk a shade of its own color. I remembered the brief period when we could get Munch to eat beets by describing them as "princess beets". The same had been true of salmon. I wiped his face with a white linen napkin, which was immediately made as pink as his chin and shirt. It was a color that moved like wildfire. I set the napkin down amongst broken crayon ends, damp bread crusts, salad bits, oil droppings, and coloring books that stretched out over the dining table. He announced the need to PEE PEE NOW and the two of us got up, fetched the key from the magnet next to the door, and visited the restaurant's small bathroom for a second time during this meal. Marie's family visited last weekend. Marie is my best friend from high school whose food obsession drove her from San Francisco to a rural farm in Ohio. Because she spends most of her days growing and preparing food for her family, I felt no particular pressure to cook while they were visiting. What she wanted most of all on her vacation were restaurants. Although together we haul four children between the ages of 5 years and 6 months, she was not interested in the family friendly venues where Wow's milk would have been served in a plastic cup with a straw and the napkins would have been disposable. She had a short list of restaurants with even shorter menus, menus likely printed on paper the weight of wedding invitations and known to generate enthusiastic chatter on chowhound message boards. I ordered a plate of quail eggs that were served over a patty of serrano ham and thin crusty bread. Seeing for the first time something he recognized as food, Wow took one of the exceedingly small offerings, put it in his mouth and bit down just enough to push liquidity egg yolk down his fingers and onto the table in front of him. He decided it wasn't to his liking and handed the decapitated egg patty back to me. It was a delicious meal, and I was glad to we'd finally - after two failed attempts - made it to one of these restaurants that Marie had so wanted to visit, but if I am honest with myself I have to admit I don't always enjoy eating out with my children. I spent more time wiping up spills and butts and protecting glassware from sharp elbows and fast moving hands than I did appreciating the food before me. We'd gone on bathroom breaks and for short walks outside. I liked it, but I'm not sure I can tell you how that (half gummed) quail egg tasted different than a normal chicken egg.
Marie and I met in the fall of 1994, the start of ninth grade at a new high school where neither of us had any other friends. She once told me that she hadn't wanted to be my friend at first, but she'd had no one else to hang out with. Despite this initial hesitancy, we'd had a pretty intense friendship through high school. We drifted apart in college, reconnected in our early twenties, and have remained close since. Although our friendship is now entering its 20th year (brief hiatus notwithstanding), part of me feels 14 when I'm around her. It's an odd sentiment considering we spent much of the weekend comparing notes on the chasm that's opened between what we thought we wanted in our adulthood and what we do now that we're in it. In these deep days of early motherhood and fledgling careers, where the only thing that prepares you for the day that's coming is the day that just passed, she's felt like a constant.