My family is now characterized as "mixed." Racially mixed that is. It's rare that everyone gets together, not because of the "mixture," but because of the logistics involved. Here's the rundown of the geographics: My wife and I live on the south side, Beverly to be exact. Her two boys, ages 17 and almost 14, live with us. They are one side of the "mixture" since they are African-American. I'm white and, hence, so are my parents and kids.
I have four kids. My son is 26 and lives in Lincoln Park. My daughter is 23, has lived recently in Miami, says she's moving to New York soon, but lives in Evanston now, with her younger brother who is 17. My other son is 20, goes to college at NIU in DeKalb and is home in Evanston for the summer. It's exhausting just documenting all of this.
When I pitched the idea for this blog, I thought that our situation was unique and that my wife and I could present an interesting take on various occurrences, events and situations. Hope that's the case with this one.
On the evening of July 3rd everyone got together - the whole mixed family - to meet my parents for the "Italian Night Buffet" at their country club in the far northwest suburbs. Also attending was another couple, friends of my parents.
I can't help but be a little anxious when we all get together. Even though everyone gets along really well, I'm the kind of guy who likes to take care of everything, but I can't take care of what other people may say or do. Nevertheless, it was a holiday and as my wife said, "Everything will be fine."
After the three different cars arrived from three different locations, we were brought into one of the two large dining rooms. We were led by the hostess to a table in the back of the empty room. Recognize as you read this and, perhaps, needless to say, my wife and her boys are the only black people at the club on this night. I know that they don't care about where we are seated or who is around us, but I comment to my mother, "Why do they have to seat us all the way back here?" She doesn't understand or necessarily appreciate my concern at that moment and answers matter-of-factly, "It's the biggest table in the place and we have 12 people."
"I got that," I said and sat down. "Have a drink," my mother responded giving me an eye roll.
While it's possible to write thousands of words about country clubs and some of the people that are members, I won't. Hell, my father is a member, but I don't consider him "country clubbish." The fact is, the food is excellent, the place is beautiful and I couldn't afford it so I enjoy the invitations when they come as do my kids. So, I decided to settle into a nice quiet evening.
It was actually pretty cool, everyone sitting together, having an awesome meal and enjoying some pre-holiday relaxation. The place started to fill up a bit as well and a group of six people sat at a table next to us. After about five minutes, one of the men at the adjacent table came up and started talking to my father's friend, let's call him Chuck. It was nothing more than easy pleasantries, "Hi, how are you; how'd you hit 'em today?" Etc., etc. Chuck responded, telling him about his round of golf that day and the other guy went back to his table. You know how you can tell when someone is kind of annoyed by someone and they're not really that friendly? That was how Chuck felt about this guy's quick visit to our table.
With a buffet like the Italian Buffet, you have to make several trips to ensure that you get at least a taste of everything to ensure no regrets later on. So, our group of 12 made periodic visits to the buffet and, as a result, created a steady parade past our neighbors of six at the adjacent round table. When some of us were getting ready to go to the buffet to bring back dessert, I thought I heard this from one of the ladies at the next table, "Who are the rest of those people?" Followed by, "We need to find out."
I don't have rabbit ears, I didn't know the people sitting in our room, but I could see what was going to happen. I kept it all to myself. I figured that these are my people and I should just wait and see how the inquiry was going to happen. Should I chalk it up to "inquiring minds want to know?" Or was it more than that?
It didn't take long. Dude who was chatting briefly with Chuck earlier got up again and came over to Chuck and his wife, let's call her Kathy. "So, Chuck, who is everyone you have with you today?" Chuck is cool. My kids really like him because he's one of those guys who has a funny line for everything, but can also take you aside and tell you what's what and you know he's right on the mark. That's kind of rare for a guy who is 70+.
Chuck responded to curious George, "It's Jimmy's party." At which point, Kathy jumped in, perhaps sensing the awkwardness of the moment or helping out my father (Jimmy) who probably didn't hear the comment anyway. Well, Kathy just started going around the table introducing everyone by their first name and explaining the corresponding relationship. "Jimmy's son, his wife, his son..." At the end, her roll call seemed to satisfy our visitor as he looked everyone over and said, "Well, it's a nice-looking group. Enjoy your dinner." And he walked back to his table.
Of course my rabbit ears opened up and I heard one of the ladies at the table say, "I told you."
Told you what? That my wife and her kids actually were invited guests and not random south siders who needed a meal? That my somewhat scruffy looking boys weren't trying out for waiter jobs?
Maybe I'm too sensitive or maybe I'm looking for people to be something that they are not. When I told my wife what I observed/heard, she said she remembered the guy coming over but didn't think anything of it. Like I said, I control some things, but not what other people say or do. So, I took matters into my own hands at that point -- and went to the dessert buffet. Excellent sundae bar and high quality banana cream pie.
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