Are we forgetting something?
I still call it the $300 dinner. I once read an article positing that the worst omission the author could think of was to forget a dinner in one’s honor, while all those good people sat at their tables watching the food congeal.What I did was dangerously close. It happened on my annual trip back East, to my family’s home near Annapolis, Maryland. Using airline miles, I had made reservations months in advance, and thought that, after our annual Saturday-to-Saturday beach week in Delaware, I’d be at my mother’s house on Sunday night, flying home Monday.I keep in touch with some good friends from high school, and one, Leslie, whom I’ve known since we were 14, generously invited me, my sons, and two other friends and their families to dinner Sunday night. Leslie’s cooking is the stuff of legend.On Sunday morning I checked my flight time for the following day. And read, right there in plain dot matrix, that we were to fly out that very evening. The Monday flight had simply been a plan I originally investigated, which hadn’t jelled, yet had somehow stayed in mind.I stared at my mother, appalled, sure that Leslie would have been at the grocery store when it opened at 7 a.m., and was even now cooking and baking. Then I picked up the phone and called the airline. I ended up rebooking for the next day, penalized $100 per ticket, risking a standby flight out of Chicago with my two young children. We went to Leslie’s dinner, swam in her pool and ate many grand courses.I thought of that dinner last week after I drove my baby sitter Paul to our normal drop-off point at the Thunder River Market. Two days a week his mother picks him up on her way home, which is many miles up toward Cottonwood Pass. As he and I waited in my car, he suddenly said, “My mother just drove by.”I backed up, pulled out hurriedly and tried to catch her, but I don’t have the car for it, and couldn’t pass a slow driver, and then the road turned to dirt. It was raining lightly.The family lives in a beautiful spot 30 minutes from the highway if you know the roads, 35 or 40 if you don’t. Like the surreal glimpses of the small fleeing figure in red that haunt the classic suspense film “Don’t Look Now,” Nancy’s little blue truck many times hove into view far ahead on a turn or switchback. Paul kept trying with the cell phone, saying sadly, “Mom, it’s Paul. We’re behind you. Please stop. … Mom, it’s Paul. Please stop.” (She later turned out to have left her cell phone at work.)I finally caught up with Nancy in the driveway, where she looked up, in a flash surprised, half-smiling, then horrified. “I forgot!” Then I drove clear back out.My favorite forgetting story, however, must be the time my friend Lisa’s mother drove to an airport, completed curbside check-in, strolled inside and got on her plane; and only that night, in another city, remembered she had left her car running outside the terminal.A friend recalls a road trip at age 8, when his parents paused at a rest stop and he got out unobserved. Not thinking to check on him supposedly sleeping in the back, they left and drove an hour away. A policeman felt so bad for the boy he bought him two sundaes and put out an APB on his parents. The shamefaced parents returned, and the boy immediately vomited the sundaes.I only told Leslie five years later about my mistake. She said I should have canceled, that she’d have understood. I thanked her. But while I believed she might have understood, I also knew she would never have forgotten it. And we didn’t get stuck in Chicago. Alison Osius lives in Carbondale and can be reached at email@example.com. Someday she’ll write about things that her and other people’s children have forgotten.
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