It is Saturday evening.
We head out to our favourite Japanese restaurant for the first time in more than two months.
I fall asleep in the car, and it is Pete who taps my window to wake me up. For a moment, I am disorientated. Then I remember the occasion. Jap food!
We arrive and find that our usual table is taken, so we squeeze into the next booth instead. Pete happily sits on my side of the table, but all the other boys want to sit with daddy. I feel slightly rebuffed, that nobody wants to sit with me. In the end, we attempt to distract Bear by pointing to the various pictures of ice-cream on the wall. It works. He stays put between Pete and myself, and finally, we all relax.
The menu has changed, which throws us off momentarily. I quickly discover that most of our favourite dishes still remain, but there is no udon (except as part of a kid’s set) and there are no sushi rolls with cooked tuna, which was one of the boys’ favourite dishes. In their place, we order miso ramen and avocado rolls with black rice.
Angus has not been well, but he is in good spirits this evening. He participates in our usual family game of Celebrity Animal with much fervour and energy. I smile at him across the table. He is so grown up now, this boy of ours.
Dinner arrives, one dish at a time.
First, the agadeshi tofu, which is primarily for Bear’s benefit. He eats it with great gusto, insisting on doing so with his spoon instead of the fork which I’ve carefully laid before him. Next, the karaage chicken – or ‘Japanese nuggets’ as we like to call it. Rick deftly deals out the pieces with his chopsticks. Everyone clamours for “More please!” but we insist on even distribution. The gyoza is served and disappears just as quickly as the nuggets. Pete is thrown by the black rice in the avocado roll, so his ends up in Rick’s bowl. The ‘sticky chicken’ (aka teriyaki chicken) is well-received by all, especially in the wake of the Japanese nuggets. The miso ramen, though spicy, is comforting to eat. Our table becomes cluttered with a dozen or more plates and bowls, but even though the table is tiny, we somehow manage.
We continue to play Celebrity Animals as we eat. I miss a few turns as I become pre-occupied with getting food for (read: into) Bear. Eventually, I stumble upon a winning combination: miso soup mixed with rice. He happily feeds himself and “More sou! More sou!” becomes his little catchcry. To my pleasant surprise, he polishes off the rice and is then happy for me to substitute ramen in its place. Miso soup for the win. I can’t help but capture him on video as he slurps up his noodles without any assistance.
Afterwards, Rick takes the boys outside while I get ready to pay. They pull their jackets on with little commotion and make their exit with great animation. The two women seated at our usual table watch the boys with great interest. They turn to me and smile. I smile back.
I pay, cast a glance back at our ‘unusual’ table, and walk outside into the crisp night air…