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Monday, June 23, 2008

People-Watching in West Virginia

Dining alone, I always bring reading material. So I gathered an abandoned copy of this morning's USA Today and asked the front desk clerk for a dinner recommendation. Linda handed me a two page printout, but told me I should go to Muriale's, "It's the best." Across the interstate and along a 2 lane road, I passed a few auto dealerships and a marina. A long country mile later and I pulled into the packed parking lot. Inside, the lobby was standing room only. Mostly large parties were waiting on this Monday night, with red-cheeked, tow-headed kids giggling and zooming through the crowd into the laps and open arms of their seated grandparents. I sought a corner to stand in and prepared myself for the 25 minute wait. Standing and waiting is a strange time for reading, so I spent my time people-watching. What were the occasions for these big family meals on a Monday night? Some families had men in suit jackets and women in flowing dress, other groups came in with bermudas and t-shirts. Many men wore proclamations of their masculinity stitched above the brim of their baseball caps, advertising tractor brands or college teams. Some grandmas wore squishy crocs and others had practical buckle sandals with sandalfoot stockings. The family resemblance in some groups was uncanny. To see the same face on child, mother, and grandmother was spooky. Granddaughter needn't wonder what she'll look like 30 or 60 years from now. Each group eventually assembled and paraded behind Chelsea, our svelte teenage hostess. Finally I did too, to sit alone with my newspaper and my chicken Marsala. Linda was right. Everything was delicious and filling for the empty spot in my stomach, but unable to fill the empty spot in my heart, so far away from my family.

4 comments:

MJ said...

So much detail in this piece and then the twist at the end. I hope your time away from them makes the time together that much more fun.

DiaBelo said...

Wow, you really grabbed me with that last sentence. I re-read the whole post a couple of times and it grew more poignant with each read. It's a mini-story.

BJNR said...

Fabulous post! People watching has become a dying art. You captured the sense of family (and of missing yours) so eloquently!

EJG said...

I can see you standing there in the corner, smiling at the people around you, making small talk. Alone. I so want to be there with you! Hurry home, safe!