He constantly told his son to keep his elbows off the table. And later to put a t-shirt on, take his hat off. And his son always replied, ‘Why?’ He recited grace with the same prayer his dad did at Christmas and Easter and his son would always point and say, ‘Elbows on the table dad.’ He would have reacted but he never knew or found out why it was improper to have elbows on the table. Then his son got older and grew taller than him and finding faults in him became redundant since he no longer joined them for dinner anyway.
Her mum consistently put diner on the table on the cliff note of television episodes then hollered, ‘Stop watching the TV now and come eat your dinner before it gets cold,’ as if it was a deliberate ploy. She fluttered during dinner on the edge of the kitchen and lounge room like she was doing a dance to hold in a wee. She didn’t know why it was so important to eat food hot anyway – it tasted the same and sometimes better when it cooled. In her heart she knew the show didn’t matter. Once they went on holiday for a week. And when she got back and returned to embrace the same primetime evening shows it didn’t even feel like a day had passed. But she was young with nothing else to attach importance to so she gave those three minutes before the final ad break the importance of life and shouted back, ‘In a minute.’ And of course her mum would scream, ‘Get in here and eat your dinner right now!’
She screamed at her daughter turn her iPod off and no texting at the dinner table. And her daughter shouted back with the same truculence that reminded her of herself when she was the same age. When her daughter’s friends stayed over, she sometimes overheard them say, ‘She’s just like my mum.’ It induced a splenetic mood that lingered like her cheap brandy long into the evening, convincing her she had turned into her own mother. She recalled a defiant childhood promise, a ferment of both compunction and pleasure that summoned the taste of cold roast beef and sticky gravy.