I've always admired my neighbor. No matter what time I rang her bell to borrow eggs, bacon and a frying pan, her make-up looked as flawlessly airbrushed as a late night infomercial and her home looked as though it was the poster child for A&E. The entire family had a frighten similarity to the models used to cast the Norman Rockwell figurines.
One afternoon she invited my sons and I to dinner. Apparently she was tired of sending leftovers to me on her good dishes which was quite unfortunate because I almost had a full set. In preparation of the big night I picked out their cleanest dirty shirts and despite the 90 degree temperature, I dressed them in long pants to hide the unmatched socks.
I gave them a crash course in dining etiquette. When dinner was placed in front of them they were instructed not to grab the plates and run to the living room. The fact that the napkins would be fabric and not paper would surely throw them for a loop so I warned them that they would not be able to rip them into little balls to flick at each other. I explained the silverware would be like none they had ever seen. The spoon and fork would be two separate utensils unlike the sporks they usually stuff their pockets with at the park lunch program. The salt, pepper and ketchup would be in bottles not plastic packages and the dishes were to go in the sink after dinner and not the trash. I begged them to remember that the round cylinders on the table were glasses and not to drink directly from the milk container.
This was the night; I was so excited my boys were going to finally see how normal people lived. As we sat down at the beautifully set table the silence was refreshing. There was no spilled milk, no wrestling for the last biscuit, no squabbling, no complaints that anyone's favorite t-shirt had been used to dry the seat of a bike that was left in the rain, no talking. There was no exchange at all. These people were strangers. I admit dinner was great although I'm afraid in my overzealous attempt to show my boys how the other half lived I blew my cover, now they know that full course meals don't come from a can. We wobbled home with full bellies and plopped down on the couch. My youngest asked in a disillusioned tone, "Is that what normal is?" I'm afraid so I replied and as I watched my oldest give his little brother a wet willie I admit, being not quite normal never felt so good.