I went to lunch with my younger friend E last week. E is one of the funniest people I know. She has opinions about everything from politics to the latest cheap sex scandal making the headlines. I call that well-rounded.
I like having friends like E who are a different age. It means I get to offer occasional nuggets of 24K wisdom and, since I haven’t given birth to the other person, she doesn’t roll her eyes or make gagging noises till she’s a few blocks away.
The last time we got together, which was at a party at a nearby bar, I confided to her that I had once been an award-winning hula hooper at the Holiday Inn South in Charlottesville, Virginia, in the early 1980s. (The prize was always the same: a free weekend at the Holiday Inn South, which wasn’t all that desirable, but how do you refuse a free weekend anywhere?)
Anyway, E pretended not to believe me, which is why I ended up hula-hooping that day in the backyard of the bar — just to show her, since, God knows, who needs that kind of unwelcome and inappropriate attention at my age?
This time, we met for lunch at a coffee place downtown. The weather was flawless — a sky the color of bluebonnets and a warm sun. It was clear to me we needed to sit outside, since, any day now, this town was going to turn into the blast oven we Texans call summer.
E looked around at the outside tables and noted in an ominous tone there were lots of birds around. (She’s a little high-strung, like most of my friends.) I told her she’d been watching too many Alfred Hitchcock movies, so we sat down, even though E kept swiveling her head and fretting about the pigeons.
Our food arrived. So did the pigeons. They swooped in and rested on a nearby table, watching us.
By then, though, E was telling me the wonderful story of how she and her husband are on the waiting list to adopt a baby. I found this quite exciting since a) E will be a great mother and b) this is the closest I’ve come, so far, to being a pretend grandmother.
Two pigeons hovered over my vegetarian chili. I yelled and beat them off. E reminded me she’d predicted the birds might be awful. I said not to sidetrack me when we had much more important things to discuss, such as my impending almost-grandmotherhood.
The pigeons adjourned to another, recently vacated table. They greedily shared the remains of a grilled cheese sandwich. Another pigeon showed up to eat the salad. I stuck a plastic spoon in my chili and tried to concentrate on my upcoming status change.
What did I want the baby to call me? Something glamorous and modern and with-it, obviously.
More pigeons showed up for the dinner party. They fluttered and pecked. One tried to fly off with a stringy tomato hanging from its beak.
What’s wrong with Coco? It sounded so, I don’t know, chic. Maybe, too, this would signal a new era in my life, when I could score a Chanel jacket, instead of just talking about it and boring my friends with all my constantly babbled-about but perennially unconsummated plans. Like, say, my recently shipwrecked plans to go to Colombia. God, I was never going to live that one down.
The pigeon brunch went on at the next table, with some departing and new arrivals showing up. E announced she was losing her appetite. I pointed out she’d already cleaned her plate, anyway, so what was the problem? The pigeons squawked and flapped their wings. I noticed my vegetarian chili — mostly untouched — was beginning to look revolting.
So, E and I got up and carried our trays to the window. Behind us, four pigeons crowded at our old table, pecking at scraps and flapping their wings. E said she was never going to eat outside again. I said yes, I hated nature, too. It was too uncivilized, just like Republicans.
E had to go shopping, so she took off down the street. I waved at her and wondered whether the baby would mind if his/her almost-grandmother took the nickname of a known Nazi sympathizer, however chic. Probably he/she would.
So, I’d better keep searching. I might as well feed Coco to the pigeons, since they seemed to be omnivorous today.
(Copyright 2012 by Ruth Pennebaker)