I’ll spare you the rant about how much I dislike the idea of valentine’s day. I’ve been over that before. In spite of that, we had a pretty pleasant evening. Flowers were delivered. Cards were exchanged. Even Erin got her first flower courtesy of ole’ Dad.

Melissa usually tries to have a nice dinner on Valentine’s Day. The whole shootin’ match: table cloth, real china, salad plates, etc. Erin was all over it; at least at first. She liked the notion of fancy trappings and fresh flowers. But to try and teach proper manners to a 10 year old boy is another matter. There’s a Bible verse that applies here. I don’t remember the phraseology exactly but it involves pearls and swine.

By the way, this is probably the first time in over a year that we have trotted out the china. I remember when we moved to California, the movers came in and carefully packed it all up in a special heavy-duty cardboard box and moved it for us. There it stayed in the box for several years. We actually took the box and threw a table cloth over it to make a makeshift bedside table in Evan’s room and I claim that that is the most use we have ever gotten out of our china. I still say we should pawn it and buy a new TV but that’s just me. But I digress…

The first hiccup was the two separate forks. Evan was mystified.

“Why do we have two forks?”

he wanted to know. Melissa explained that one was for the salad.

“Which one?”

The one farthest out.

“Why?”

Because.

I can hear him and his buddies now describing it.

Evan: “We had dinner last night and we had two forks!

Friend: “Two forks? Why?”

Evan: “I don’t know. My mom made me.”

That was only the beginning of Melissa’s descent from elegance. Melissa’s valentine flowers were somehow fascinating to the kids. All those lovely tulips and whatevers just begged to be touched and squeezed apparently. Hands were slapped away.

We have worked for years to get the kids to stop interrupting each other and us at the dinner table but last night all lessons seemed to melt away amid the unfamiliar surroundings of fine china. It was a constant cacophony. The final nail in the coffin of elegance was Evan’s sudden and unrepentant “thunder from down under” if you know what I mean. There are those of you on my mailing list who would like to make comments about my paying for my own childhood antics at this point but I advise keeping quiet about it. Bringing up my own intestinal entertainments from 30 years ago would not add much to Evan’s stock of manners. Besides, that’s a long time to be telling that story. Anyway, at that point, Melissa almost had to bring out “the enforcer” (rolled up Broken Arrow Ledger – circulation in the dozens) that has heretofore only been used on the dogs. It was a tense moment although not to Evan. It was the first fun he had had during the entire meal.

Erin likes these sorts of formal occasions but she’s still young enough to be led astray so she switched sides quickly to Evan’s – the side of bad-to-non-existent table manners and it was all downhill from there.

Well, at least we were all at the table together. Sometimes I wonder if all those private TV’s and video games that our kids say their friends have don’t contribute as much to the problems we face these days as all the floating meth labs. Many families don’t have any idea what’s going on in their kid’s lives because they don’t talk to them enough; the kids in their rooms doing who knows what and the parents don’t bother to find out. I guess that’s why Mel said last night that the evening was so pleasant. That surprised me until I figured out why she felt that way. She just wants us to be together.

Still, if I don’t get Evan to stop all the foghorn-like flatulence, he’s going to be in for a rude awakening on prom night.

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