Ancient History

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My chair stood against the dining room wall. I sat patiently poised, ready and eager to leap into action.

“Miss, could you get the A-1 sauce out of the refrigerator?”

“Yes, sir!”

I delivered the bottle to the table and returned to my place.

“Miss, I forgot the salt in the kitchen. Could you get it for me?”

“Yes, ma’am!”

I fetched the salt, the pepper, extra napkins, more water. Every request was carried out cheerfully, every demand met with a smile. Was I the best waitress ever, angling for a legendary tip?

At the time I was the best waitress ever because I loved who I was serving—my mom and dad. It was their anniversary and I was about 8 or 9 years old.

That particular year they decided to stay home to celebrate. My mom fixed an early dinner for my siblings and I. After we were bejammied, my dad began grilling steaks for the two of them. The table was set with candles. The lights were low. I knew romance when I saw it—I was allowed to watch “The Love Boat” every Saturday night at 7pm. Was that blue eyeshadow on my mom? Was that a Henry Mancini record my dad put on the turntable? I wanted to watch the night unfold, excusably unsavvy and oblivious to the meaning of “dinner for two”.

I am sure my parents would have preferred a more private dinner without me in the room, but they said nothing when I announced I would be their waitress for the evening. They let me serve them. They probably encouraged me to serve them, inventing needs they didn’t really have. Did they really need all those napkins? No. My toddler brother was probably already in bed.

Today is their 38th wedding anniversary. There is no gap-toothed schoolgirl granting wishes for more seasoning or another butter knife. It’s just the two of them. I wonder why they put up with my intrusion that night. Didn’t they just want some alone-time? If they did, they never said it. They never shattered my delight or dampened my enthusiasm.

I think they knew it was my gift to them.

But I didn’t know it.

I just wanted to watch (and maybe have a bite of steak?). My parents were in love.

They still are, and that is their gift to me.

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