This is what dinner looks like now.
I went to work one day last year leaving behind the stereotypical dinner set-up: table, chairs, you know the drill. I never gave it much thought, but the chairs were well-proportioned, allowing my feet to touch the ground, keeping my knees in a pleasant, neutral position. The backs offered just the right reclining angle for digestion. But most importantly, the chairs were evenly spaced around the table, well-appointed for comfortable conversation for our family of three while still preserving personal space.
When I came home from work that day, our table and chairs were gone. When I casually asked, “So, where did the table go?” I got a feigned, “What table?” from Neal while Addison giggled in the background. The table and chairs I took for granted the day before had been banished to the garage because “it was too cluttered” and in their place were three tall stools squeezed together under our retro yellow tiled bar. Because who needs personal space while you’re trying to chew your food?
Certainly not our girl, who thinks her stool is in fact a very small stage on which she is intended to reenact life at the zoo on a daily basis.
Some days she’s a giraffe and my hair strands are the leafy nourishment that her prehensile tongue is made for, while I chomp on actual greens and try to coax her to do the same.
Other days she’s more carnivorous and nothing but a bite on my ear will satiate her hunger. In those moments, I miss the days of being arms-distance away, buffered by an oak table. But at least I can count on this ferocious warning first.
This week we watched The Sound of Music and nothing would do but to sing, “Climb every Lindsay! Climb high and low!” at the top of her lungs while trying to perch on my head. Until she crumbled back down in a fit of glee.
She cracks herself up, throwing her head back with utter abandon.
Sometimes, though, the circus-zoo-asylum closes early and she turns contemplative. She wonders.
So, how did God get created? How did that even work?
What is Heavenly Mother’s name?
Do you think we’re like God’s robots or something? Like God just thinks in his head what to do and then we do it? Like, beep boop, beep boop, she says, accompanied by sweet Mr. Roboto moves.
Do you think it was just the leaders in part of the South that wanted to keep slaves, and the other people wanted to let them go, but they couldn’t because the leaders didn’t want them to?, after a troubling lesson on the Civil War.
I’m more at ease with questions on the unknowable than I am with this more common view:
At least every other day, Addison or I or both end up in a tirade about how much we hate the stools. The roots of our problems are, of course, opposite. I rant because the cramped proximity of the stools makes it more difficult to eat in stillness; self-preservation requires that I fend off predatory attacks with one hand while trying to balance my fork in the other. She rants about the stools’ dangers when she’s come crashing down on the floor after trying to once again scale one of the stools as if she were a caged monkey at the zoo.
Some days I feel like crawling out of my own skin just to get through a few bites without a finger entering my ear or a little tongue licking my cheek before I even know what’s hit me. But then, I look over to command one last time and the eyes of my little baby girl are staring back. And I’m transported. For a moment, she’s 10 days old again and we’re gazing intently into each other’s blue eyes. For a moment, she’s not a perpetual motion machine, but my baby again.
How could I ever give up on a set of stools that make dinner look like that?