About two year ago, Eloise went to spend the night with her best friend. Their plans included watching her brothers in a hockey tournament in some suburb in a land far far away. Upon her arrival home Eloise said in a crazy-excited voice, “Mom, we went to the most amazing restaurant last night!” And I was all like “Unless you’ve eaten at the Peninsula in Hong Kong – you have no idea what an amazing restaurant is.” And she was like “Seriously, we have to go to this restaurant sometime – it’s called The Olive Garden..have you heard of it?”
And then I tried not to laugh.
“No honey, I haven’t…but yes, sure, let’s go there sometime.” I said, convinced that she would just forget about her experience in the suburbs soon. Or that counseling could perhaps help her cope with her new love for the never-ending salad and bread sticks.
But no. Two years later she still remembers that meal as one of the finest of her life as if she broke bread with Jesus that night. And sometimes I hear her tell her Olive Garden story to her sisters and they too ask to go to this mecca in the parking lot holy land outside of the freeway ring that separates the liberals from the Bachmann voters. And frankly I get scared.
So I’ve never taken them and I change any talk of The Olive Garden into “Hey, let’s talk about how babies are made!”
Because I consider The Olive Garden a Gateway Drug. Sure, it seems safe to eat there once in awhile and enjoy the sub-par pasta, mediocre wine list and unlimited bread sticks. But then you get bored and want more. Soon you find yourself waiting two hours for a table at The Outback on a Saturday night, shopping at Costco for that 20 lb tub of peanut butter, waiting at the drive-thru at McDonald’s on Sunday morning..and soon, soon…you find yourself sleeping in the Disney World parking lot so you can be first in the park when the gates open.
I know my addictive personality and soon we’d even wear matching family t-shirts everywhere we go.
And it’s not like anything is wrong with those things. I just feel safe in the city eating at the local corner restaurant and pretending we only eat organic when we shop at the Farmer’s Market and use our hemp shopping bags.
But Jed is out of town and I’m feeling weak, worn down and evidently out of my mind – because last night the kids wore me down and we hopped into the minivan and crossed a freeway to wait in line for dinner at The Olive Garden.
And it was everything they dreamed of and more.
And all I kept thinking about was that my prom date took me there in 1986 and he was truly a cheap bastard.
And if you’re looking for us next Saturday night – well you will probably find us at The Outback in our matching shirts.