March 27, 2005

Easter Dinner

On the good china in the formal dining room the family passes serving bowls and spoons out portions. The two preteen boys, cousins who live far apart, have been seated across from each other, but there’s a vase of flowers in their way and they don’t say much. The grownups talk about the housing market. The older cousin, by six months, gnaws on celery and carrot sticks and radish halves, rushes down a few bites of smoked ham, then asks to be excused, forgoing not only the gratineed potatoes as predicted, but also the homemade rolls and cranberry–marshmallow jello.

“I thought you used to like that,” his grandmother says.

“’Used to’ is the key word, Grandma.” A few seconds later his younger cousin follows.

The grownups talk about their diets, their doctors, the health problems of a missing relative. Dinner is punctuated by the sounds of a basketball hitting driveway pavement and glass backboard, sneakers pounding, yelled–out scores and cheers and protests.

The grandmother opens the driveway door. “Want dessert, boys? Ice cream!”

“No thanks, Gran,” the older says for both, without interrupting the rhythm of the ball on the pavement.

At some point later the cousins must have re–entered the house, because the sounds of a loud movie come from the closed door of the TV room.

The grownups move to the formal living room. They discuss their accountants, their vacations, and their cemetery plots.

At evening’s end, the two cousins slip through the vestibule into the fresh air before their grandparents can kiss them.

The grandmother presses her two daughters’ hands simultaneously. “It was so lovely to see the boys again!” she says, and means it.