Posted by Facetious Firecracker
Under normal circumstances, I dread visits with my mother. I am well aware that this makes me sound like a terrible, horrible, no-good kind of person. It would take more words than the world’s longest blog post for me to explain why I feel this way, so just take my word for it.
I can hear you judging me.
Anyway, Mom’s birthday was on Thursday, so at this time last week, I started making plans with my family for the required birthday dinner. As usual, I called my grandma in an effort to avoid getting stuck on the phone for two hours with Mom. Typically, birthday dinners in my family happen at Texas Roadhouse. That’s just fine with me. They have steak, sweet potatoes smothered in brown sugar and butter, and I can order a margarita, which always helps me to cope with Mom’s incessant whining and complaining about the woes of life. Seriously, she’s the biggest Debbie Downer you could ever meet. I feel like I need to be on Paxil after I leave, just to see the light of day again.
However, Grandma wanted to go somewhere different this time, and as the reigning matriarch of the family, she gets to decide these kinds of things without question.
I love my Grandma. She’s a strong woman who has overcome numerous obstacles in life, lived through the Depression, buried two husbands, and raised my sister and me when my mom wasn’t capable of doing so.
I do not do places like Golden Corral. My hometown does not have…ahem…the classiest of people living there. So, the idea of eating somewhere in which there are large pans of food with the purpose of self-service is not appetizing in the least. I imagined the scene: dirty children putting sticky fingers into macaroni and cheese, toothless women coughing and hacking over the plates and silverware, and tables that haven’t been properly sanitized since the place was built.
Then, I decided that I was being horribly judgmental. I would go to the Golden Corral, and I would suck it up, and be just fine. Friday evening arrived and Husband and I drove to meet Mom, Mom’s Boyfriend, Grandma, and Sister for Mom’s 55th Birthday Extravaganza. I even bought a “nice” birthday card because I was so rudely informed at our Mother’s Day gathering that I don’t get her nice enough cards. Yes, you read that correctly. My cards did not demonstrate my daughterly love at an appropriate level, so my mom told me I needed to buy her mushier cards in the future. So I did.
Husband was not happy at all. He and I share opinions on buffet-style restaurants and our last encounter with Mom was painstaking. She had spent our last three-hour visit talking about nothing but her back pain, excruciating 20-hour work weeks, getting two hours of sleep every night, and sanding wallpaper. One of the reasons I love Husband is because he tolerates these sorts of visits, and for some reason, comes back for more.
We walked into the Golden Corral, “nice” card in hand, and greeted my family. Grandma looked absolutely adorable. She’s 88 years old and is quickly losing her vision due to macular degeneration. A tightly curled victory roll decorated her forehead and hot pink lipstick was smeared around her lip area.
“I called earlier and told them that we’d be here at 6:30 with seven people. They said they would push two tables together for us. I gave them our last name, so when your sister gets here they can take her to our table.”
Yes, folks. My grandma made reservations at a Golden Corral, and was under the impression that this was proper protocol. I turned toward the window and smiled. I’m sure when I’m 88, I’ll do silly things like that, too.
Surprisingly, my mom didn’t immediately dominate the conversation with complaints. She gave us hugs, said hello, and excused herself to the restroom.
Maybe this won’t be so bad, after all, I thought. The worst thing I had noticed so far was a mass of baby powder escaping Mom’s exposed cleavage, as usual. She doesn’t seem to understand the concept of rubbing it in so the rest of the world doesn’t see evidence of her boob sweat problem.
Husband and I walked to the cashier to get our drinks and pay. As soon as she filled our cups with water (they wanted $1.79 for drinks and we were already paying $11 for school cafeteria quality food!), she realized that her car windows were down in the pouring rain. Here is where the experience starts to go downhill. The cashier ran outside to put up her windows. I understand. No problem. But, the manager who walked over to fill in left us standing there, waiting to pay, while she helped people behind us in line.
Finally, the cashier came back inside and we were able to pay and join my family, who had been patiently waiting for us for the last five minutes. I’m sure that was a fluke, I told myself. Don’t judge this place. I’m sure the food will be fine.
We were led to a private room in the dining area, in which there were only two other occupied tables. Sweet. This might turn out ok, after all. We ventured to the buffet area, where Husband and I meticulously examined our plates and silverware for baked-on food. I noticed a pan of cinnamon apples and thought, I like those. See? You were stereotyping.
Then, an old woman who was standing in front of the apples began to cough and hack. Right. Into. The. Apples.
A ten year old girl walked by, wearing nothing but a bathing suit.
Immediately, I entered Germaphobic Panic Mode. What was safe to eat here? A woman leaned over the buffet, dragging her hair across the food. A man licked his fingers and grabbed the tongs, piling fried chicken onto his plate. I finally settled upon beef stew (all of the meat had been taken, leaving only the vegetables; take that as you’d like), mashed potatoes and green beans.
As I sat down, Mom, Grandma and Mom’s Boyfriend were wolfing down their food as if someone had given them a five minute time limit for dinner. Husband and Sister cracked jokes about the meatloaf and mac and cheese’s similarity to Banquet frozen dinners. The servers were doing a good job of taking away our empty plates and keeping our drinks full. Mom was even on her best behavior, allowing the conversation to center around someone besides herself most of the time. I couldn’t believe it.
Grandma sat down, holding her third plate of food. “I waited for ten minutes for them to fill up the fried chicken! Some big guy tried to take all the drumsticks, but I only let him have two!”
Then, something happened that solidified my decision to blog about this dinner.
A mass of people walked into the doorway of our room. They were dressed in wedding clothes.
That’s right. A group of 40 people had made reservations to have their wedding reception in this private room and were quite upset because three tables, including ourselves, had been seated there. I had to hide my horror and amusement, for fear of having my tires slashed. Their outfits were interesting choices for a wedding. Jeans. Boobalicious strapless dresses. You get the idea. There ended up being room for all of them in the private room and disaster was averted.
Grandma returned from her fifth trip to the buffet. Her plate was piled with desserts. “I took that spoon and scooped all of the peaches from the peach cobbler. I only left the crust!” Our whole table burst into giggles. When you’re 88, you can do what you please. If Grandma wants to take all the peaches, more power to her.
Mom opened her birthday cards and actually appreciated them. I’m still in shock that she was so well behaved. Maybe we should go to Golden Corral more often. Apparently, it calms my mother’s talkative nature.
Also, where else can you go to a birthday party and a wedding at the same time?