Scenes from a reunion dinner

Tonight's reunion dinner had the impressive distinction of having been the first such dinner that was not an overeating fest. The mother-in-law usually enjoys feeding us as if we're still growing teenagers and over-orders with great zest. This year, she showed magnificent restraint and stuck to what was on the set menu --- which was in turn perfectly proportioned by the restaurant so that we had just enough of each of the nine courses, easing ourselves comfortably but not prematurely towards a quiet fullness.

However, I'm not sure the chef would have approved of the way I caked everything (except the soup, fish, glutinous rice and dessert) in chilli sauce. I usually show restraint, since the point of paying good money for food is to be able to taste the chef's brilliance, but the chilli sauce was too damn tempting! And fiery-hot too. Terz deduced that it had sesame oil in it.

In fact, I was so busy dipping everything in chilli sauce that we completely missed the little family drama at the next table. One minute, they were eating merrily; the next, an orange-shirted boy (aged ten or so) was sobbing into a gnarly tissue, his mother and younger brother had vanished from the table, and his father glowered ominously over him, looking all the more fearsome for his alcohol-reddened complexion. The boy continued sniffing, the father exited dramatically after a female relative failed to cajole him into a more even temper, then mother and brother returned, the latter looking red-eyed as well. There were no grandparents at the table, so neither boy had any hope of being sayanged (coddled) --- only sober expressions all round as relatives and cousins poked politely at the food. When the father returned a course or two later, he strode unwaveringly all the way to the restroom at the back of the restaurant, causing further discombobulation at the table.

Whatever it was the boys fought over, I hope it was worth all that Sturm und Drang.

I told Terz that if we ever have a kid and he loses his temper at it, he shouldn't get so drama at a reunion dinner. We also agreed that our kid(s) wouldn't be allowed to bring Gameboys or books to family dinners, or to dress like they'd just strolled off the tennis court.

Yeah, you know you're old when you start criticising all the kids at the other tables.

The CD the restaurant had on a loop played the usual seasonal ditties, and we caught strains of a "Jingle Bells" cover with Chinese New Year lyrics. In the car on the way home, the father-in-law had the Carpenters and other golden oldies going. The roads were as quiet as if it were already the middle of the night.


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