My Scrambled Nest

An Almost-Empty Nest Journey of "Letting Go" With Laughter and Love, By Cathy Free

Over the weekend, I went on my first triple date since I was in high school, ending up at the same place where I’d worn my mint-green Gunne Sax prom dress in 1978: The Old Spaghetti Factory in Trolley Square. Only this time, the other four people at the table were much younger and more hip than me or my husband, and two of them eyed me somewhat suspiciously for the first 15 minutes until they finally realized that I wasn’t going to talk about politics or pull out a secret stash of embarrassing childhood photos.

Such is the ambiance when you’re out on a triple date with your teenage daughter and son.

It all came together rather innocently and spontaneously. I hadn’t used two of my Christmas gift cards (one to Williams-Sonoma and one to my favorite eclectic stationary shop, Tabula Rasa), and for the first time in several months, I was looking at a free Friday night.

“I’m heading to Trolley Square,” I told my husband. “Want to tag along?” He looked up with glazed eyes from the Olympic Opening Ceremonies on television. “Yeah, sure, why not?” Then my daughter, on her way out the door to meet her boyfriend, chimed in. “Trolley Square? As in Tabula Rasa? As in the Spaghetti Factory? I LOVE the Spaghetti Factory.”

“I haven’t been there to eat since you were 9 or 10,” I said. “Let’s do it. Want to meet us there?”

Amazingly, she agreed.

“Are you my daughter or an alien imposter?” I asked. Laughing, she waltzed out the door. “See you at 8!”

A bit later, I received a text from my son, wondering what we were having for dinner when he came home from the dorm to do his laundry on Sunday.

“I haven’t thought about it yet,” I told him, “but I do know what we’re having tonight. Pasta la vista, baby. Spaghetti Factory. Trolley Square. Your sister and her boyfriend are going. Do you and your girlfriend want to join us?”

I imagined that he’d rather attend a four-hour seminar on how to rewrite legislative code than go on a Friday night triple date with his little sister and parents. So I was floored when he responded, “Um, OK. We actually don’t have any plans. See you there.”

And that’s how we all ended up in a giant red velvet booth eating spaghetti with Mizithra cheese and brown butter, chicken piccata and fettuccine with mushroom sauce, talking about college chemistry classes and high school spirit assemblies, joking about Donald Trump’s latest misspelled tweet (yes, I have to confess that I brought it up) and debating about which movie deserves to win the Academy Award for best picture next month.

As we dug into our desserts — dishes of spumoni ice cream — I suddenly flashed on my two kids at ages 2 and 4, sitting at a coveted table inside the Spaghetti Factory’s antique trolley car, squirming and giggling, their faces coated with cheese sauce and chocolate-strawberry-pistachio ice cream as they launched leftover pieces of macaroni with their forks.

Although I was tempted to bring up the memory, a quick glance at my teenagers and their sweethearts, happy in the moment, made me realize that it was best left unshared. My children are grown and self-assured now, and it’s not a good idea to divulge embarrassing tales of toddlerhood when your daughter has a plateful of noodles and a wicked aim.

Besides, I’m hoping for a redo on my birthday. šŸ˜‰

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