• One Minnesota Writer


The Tuesday Night Dinner Project

Sometimes there’s no good reason for fatigue to hit. But it happens anyway, every so often, and all I want to do is lie down.

After I broke up a dog fight in my own foyer a little while ago, I thought, damn. I’m tired. Both dogs were at the vet’s office this morning, both got shots. I guess they’re now feeling a little punky. Their bad behavior got them both crated for the afternoon. And now I’m watching words appear on my computer screen at an alarmingly slow rate given that there is no other distraction here. 

Well, that’s probably not quite true. I can find distractions in motes of dust that float by the window and the fact that iTunes radio is at my finger tips and the knowledge that there are snacks in the cupboard. Wait, did I hear a car drive by outside? Who was that?

I’m probably worse than my granddaughter Camille. I took her to the library yesterday so she could play somewhere new and pick out books and videos and see other kids. I am lucky to have a really good library less than a mile from my house. The Ramsey County Library – Roseville is quite an amazing place and is full of distractions for someone like me. For Camille, we very nearly didn’t get past the walkway to the children’s section because there are tiles with letters of the alphabet on the floor and Camille was completely enchanted by that idea. I showed her where the C was and she decided that was hers. We had to negotiate to get her to move on, check out the rest of the children’s area. Oh, but wait, first we had to sit on the cushions that lined up on one side of the walkway and were just right for small people. And then we had to check out the little table just inside the children’s area, near the first set of bookshelves where Camille pulled down a book about Islam. She can’t read yet, but the cover looked good. 

Eventually, we ended up on the other side of the room, at the back where there is a play kitchen and all kinds of fake food for kids to play with. Camille loaded up her arms and brought me rubbery grapes, berries, bananas, tomatoes, apples, and a taco. Yes, a fully-loaded taco. It was not your typical toddler-style fake food. We found what looked like fried chicken drumsticks and grilled chicken breast and pizza and an eggplant. An avocado. A piece of lettuce and both sections of a hamburger bun. The only things suspect were the eggs which looked an awful lot like ping pong balls. And maybe they were. 

That play area was a gift. Camille hung out for nearly an hour, mixing and then not with assorted other kids who came around and drifted on. I sat on the bench and thought, wow, this is great. Next time I should bring my coffee. I noticed other parents and caregivers (there was at least one other grandparent) doing just that. 

And the kids were happy in this unstructured safe place. Camille played until she had to visit the rest room and that was our cue to do something else. The only thing that kept her from going back was the bribe of being allowed to choose some DVDs for after her nap. It was a lovely, distraction-filled way to spend the morning. 

I told Camille’s parents about our morning later that day, when everyone gathered for dinner. We watched the snow fall last night, gathered around Moroccan-style roast Cornish hens with vegetables, and had a lively conversation about all kinds of things. As we hopped from topic to topic, the parallel was clear: that library offers Camille a chance to hop from thing to thing, too. It’s one of the doorways for her to join the conversation.

And now, I’m going to consider a nap of my own.

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