Today as I walked around Saugatuck, MI, I spotted a small child (about 9 or 10) reading a book at a restaurant. Suddenly I was completely overcome by a smile. Then, that smile turned into envy. I was envious that the girl or boy (I don’t remember) was allowed to bring a book to the table. It seemed to me that at such a young age that child couldn’t appreciate the opportunity to escape from table conversation into a different world.
Why is it that at a certain age it becomes inappropriate to bring a book to the table at meal time? Yes, yes I do understand that during meal times you’re supposed to interact with others around the table and that it can be a time of stimulating conversation (especially when discussing my favorite topic – religion). What I don’t understand is the imaginary line where reading at the table becomes taboo. I used to read at the table, because I was too young to participate in the “grown-up” conversations. Of course, that wasn’t always true, but it was the line used to explain the small child with long blonde hair and round glasses who had her nose in a book the entire meal – sometimes forgetting to eat. Then, I grew up and was expected to keep the book away from the table. Why?!
Maybe I’m just anti-social? Maybe my over active imagination is more interesting? Or maybe it’s because the topics I enjoy discussing are dining table taboo, but I can’t sit at drawn out meals and sincerely enjoy every conversation or actually pay attention. When I do have to suffer through such meals I find myself wanting to pull out a book, but that escape is too obvious and frowned upon at this age. What I’ve discovered I end up doing, and what the small child in Saugatuck reminded me of, is I return to a childhood pastime. I make up stories in my head about the items on the table.
As a child, when I didn’t have a book and before I could read, I would play pretend with the objects on the table. Mr. Fork and Mr. Knife were friends with Ms. Spoon. Sometimes, if they were lucky, Mr. Fork or Mr. Knife would be married to Ms. Spoon. They would go for strolls among the Glass Stem Trees and watch the Sugar Packet Creatures run wild. Ms. Spoon lived on the Plate (Mr. Fork and Mr. Knife never really had a home) and enjoyed watching the Candlelight Sun/Moon. On special days, Mr. Pepper and Mrs. Salt would visit. Sometimes the sugar packets wouldn’t be creatures, but Salt and Pepper’s multitude of children. One can only imagine how chaotic those visits to Ms. Spoon must have been with a slew of children in tow. Yes, life in the Merry World of Utensils was very entertaining.
Now, many, many years later as I begin to zone out during meals I glance at Mr. Pepper and Mrs. Salt. I smile and whisper hello to them in my head and as they update me on the goings-on of Utensil World. I then glance by my hands and see Fork looking longingly at Spoon who, as usual, is caught up in conversation with Knife. Sometimes I even catch myself reaching for the sugar packets to pull them closer to their parents, but I always cover it up by asking if anyone wants sugar with their coffee.
Despite the “grown-ups” best efforts I still manage to escape the tedium of long dinners. Yes, in this case I’m not a “grown-up.” I am still that little kid reading or playing with the silverware, while my parents eat their lunch and talk about adult things. Thank you small child in Saugatuck for reminding me that they may make me check my books at the table, but my imagination and Utensil World are still active when the meal gets boring.