“Is this done mom?” asks my youngest teen standing bent over in front of the oven with his finger poking into the tops of two small chicken pot pies. I look at the clock and notice it’s getting close to 8pm.
“Yes, they’re done. Take them out,” I answer.
“They don’t look done,” he says.
“They’re done,” I say, as I empty boiling water from a pan into the sink and a block of bloated pasta falls into the colander with a thwap.
“What do I do with them?” he asks.
I’m engrossed in the act of trying to pry apart individual raviolis and arrange the white swollen packets on a white plate and present them to the older teen sitting at the table and texting into the cellphone on his lap. On the table are three placemats, a jar of tomato sauce, and a plastic container of grated parmesan cheese.
“Umm, just turn them upside down over the mixed vegetables on those two plates,” I say, motioning to the counter.
“Mom, they already had vegetables in them,” he says, carrying over a plate at a time of mounded broken crust and gelatinous chicken gravy jiggling over a layer of tiny multicolor squares, circles, and triangles.
“I thought we needed more,” I say.
“I’m not eating mine,” says the older teen. He grabs the jar from the table and empties a large amount of blood red sauce onto his plate with a splat.
The table laid out before us is gruesome.
“So your brother says he is quitting the leaders group,” I say to both teens.
“Yeah it’s not his thing, dog,” says the older teen.
“Well then, why don’t you suggest some other clubs he can join as a freshman, dog,” I say back. I look at the younger teen. “Or maybe you are going to need a job. You can’t just skateboard all the time.” The younger teen doesn’t look up and continues stretching the uncooked taffy-like center of his chicken pie crust with his fork.
“He can’t get a job at 15 mom. He’s not old enough,” says the older one between mouthfuls of ravioli.
“But you worked at the Y at 15, remember?” I ask.
Now the younger teen chimes in.
“That’s because he is the best one there, mom,” he says.
“Dude, I’m not that good. I wouldn’t leave my own kid alone with me. I mean, I would, I know what I’m doing, I’m not going to lie, but I still have a lot more to learn from the older counselors,” says the older teen. “And when I get married,” he looks at his brother across the table,”to a woman,” he says, and gives him a long exaggerated stare. “But you can do whatever you want…”
“Hey, why do you always look at me and say stuff like that?” says the younger teen.
“Guys, I think you mean when you get married to whoever you want” I say interrupting.
The older teen has lost his train of thought now and looks at me.
“Mom, you knew you were gay in high school right?” he asks.
“I’m not gay,” I answer.
“Come on mom, you were just holding it back,” he says.
“It’s not that simple, dog,” I say. “I like men. I had you guys with your dad didn’t I?”
“Yeah, but that just makes you bisexual,” he replies.
“Some people know right away, others don’t until they are older. Some people just change their minds. All I’m trying to say is that you have options,” I reply.
“Not if I want to have a family I don’t,” he says while pouring water from the jug into his glass.
The younger teen looks at my plate and motions to his massacred crust on his plate.
“This isn’t done, mom,” he says.
I cut around the gooey center of my own crust and hand him the cooked portions from my plate.
“What do you mean? I say back to the older teen. “Of course you can have a family! Most of the same-sex couples I know are having their own kids.”
“Well adoption,” he says.
“Yes, and lots of other things too. One of my friends had all three of his little girls by using his husband’s sperm, one of his sisters’ eggs, and a surrogate mother who lives in another state to carry the babies to term.” I say.
“So wait,” says the younger teen who stops eating to join in the conversation. “So that means their mother is also their aunt?! That’s weird, mom.”
“Or it’s pretty great,” I say. “Think about it. How lucky for those kids to have so many family members that love them.”
“You have friends that picked how their kids were going to look from a book. That’s not right,” says the older teen again.
“Why not?” I say back. “If you had the option to choose some characteristics ahead of time, you wouldn’t?”
“Yeah, dude, wouldn’t you want your kids to have the best?” asks the younger teen. “Not your ugly face.”
“Hey, cut it out, now guys,” I say.
The room gets quiet for a few minutes.
“I know someone with tendencies towards asbergers,” the older teen says changing the subject.
“Yeah, and what do you have tendencies toward?” I ask back.
“I have tendencies toward ADD mom,” he laughs. “Remember all that testing you put me through?”
“And what do you have tendencies toward,” I say looking at the younger teen. He grows thoughtful and thinks about it a minute.
“I’d have to say I have tendencies toward an authority complex.”
“Ahh,” I say back.
And the room gets quiet again.
“This is a terrible dinner,” I say finally while reaching for some of the overcooked french fries the older teen has added next to his plate as a second course.
“It’s not so bad, mom. You’ve made worse,” he says with a smirk.
“You’re right, dog,” I reply.
But in moments like this one, I have to remind myself just why I bother to make a frantic dinner for all three of us several times a week after 7pm.
Sometimes, the best dinners yield no conversation at all. All of us preoccupied with our meal, silently taking in the smells and textures of expertly prepared food, savoring each bite, and listening only to our thoughts and the sounds of silverware clinking against plates.
And the worst dinners can offer up pure magic, when the bad food forces us all to engage in real conversation with each other at the table. Before we know it an hour has passed, we’ve asked some tough questions, and we’ve brought up a whole assortment of colorful topics that matter, some real food for thought.
A regular mixed medley.