Sunday, March 8, 2009


After I came of an age to be allowed to eat at my parents’ dinner table, and not be relegated to the children’s room to eat with my older sister and governess, dinners became very stressful for me.
We had a long table in the dining room. My mother sat at one end and my father at the other. My sister sat on one side and I sat at the other. We were served by the maid, always from the left. Dishes were removed from the right. We had finger bowls that I delighted in. They were glass and had a little glass figure attached to the bottom, a frog, a flower, a fruit, or…. What was I going to get tonight?
I had to sit with my back straight and not touching the back of my chair. My left hand had to be in my lap, holding down the linen napkin that matched the place mat. We, the children, were not allowed to speak unless spoken to. It was my parents’ time to discuss the events of the day.
My attention would go to the Italian glass bowl, the centerpiece, filled with glass grapes and fruit. There were lines of little bubbles running through the irregularly shaped vessel, starting larger at the base and then diminishing in size as they progressed up the sides of the bowl.
I was sent away from the dinner table so many times, for breaching the protocols. Usually, by then I was in tears. I don’t remember what I did wrong, even if I may have known it in the moment. Once, after I had been sent to my room without supper, my governess came to me with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on rye bread. I hated rye bread, but I was so hungry that I ate it, and liked it. From then on, rye bread has been a favorite of mine for sandwiches.
Later, when I was in my early teens, my parents relaxed somewhat. On hot summer evenings my father would ask permission of us to take off his suit jacket. That was only in New York City. When we were in the house in the country, everything became much more relaxed and casual. Of course, several cocktails and a bottle of wine helped the atmosphere around the dinner table immensely.

Prema Rose

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