Fond and Not So Fond Memories of Dining Out on Mother’s Day

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Mother’s Day is notoriously the worst day of the year to dine out, and yet, most of us know we’ll end up doing it anyway. Mom deserves a night off, right? In many cases, it’s dear old Dad at the helm, or grill, as it were. But 9 times out of 10, he’s going to opt for something a little fancier and easier on him as well. After all, he’s worked his tail off all week; he deserves a break too!

I’ve been a mother for 15 years now, and I remember my first Mother’s Day fondly. My father-in-Law treated me and my sister-in-law and our families to a cook-out at his house. It didn’t matter that the burgers were the standard hockey puck variety or that my sister-in-law admonished my child at the dinner table right in front of us. When my father-in-law presented us both with matching T-shirts from Sears, that didn’t matter either. It was the thought that counted, and being pampered for a day, told to just sit, relax and enjoy the glass of wine that accompanied my crunchy entree was enough.

The following year, when my decision to enjoy a quiet day with my little nuclear family clashed with my husband’s plan to take my father-in-law out for Indian food erupted into World War III, sure I pouted, but I also remembered what a nice first Mother’s Day I was given the previous year, and so I relented. All was forgiven over Chicken Korma and Mango Lassi’s at our favorite Indian eatery.

What followed were both planned (by me) and impromptu Mother’s Day celebrations, all memorable in one way or another. There was the year we decided to wing-it and head to the Cape May zoo with no dinner plans whatsoever. That was the time I found myself at an Arby’s with a beef and cheddar in one hand and a red carnation in the other, courtesy of the roast beef empire, of course.

Another year we ended up at Pizzeria Uno for a second red carnation, a divine deep dish, a glass of wine for me, and a headache for my husband, as we wrangled our kids through a day they’d rather be spending in front of video games. The celebration aimed at all things motherhood was kind of lost on them.

Still another year, we took a long Sunday drive to New Hope for some antiquing and a fight over stale pizza on an over-crowded day in what is becoming one of the most overrun quaint towns on the East Coast. What were we thinking? That’s easy – we weren’t.

As we travelled further and further outside the confines of handprint-laden pottery and “I Love You Mommy” homemade cards and into “Why do we have to go out to dinner” territory, the husband decided it might be a good idea to go out without the kids. That was the year I walked into a Macaroni Grill with a heavy heart and an empty stomach, only to experience some of the most bizarre customer service known to man, juxtaposed with funky atmosphere, while being seated at a table directly adjacent to a guy dressed in a wife beater, black knee socks, a gold chain that would make Flavor Flav blush and his wife, sporting a luminescent, yet transparent mu-mu and bedroom scuffs. Hey, this is Jersey. Whaddya’s want?

I couldn’t believe I was spending Mother’s Day without my kids. Not even two bottles of wine and molten lava cake ala mode could console me. Still, my husband had good intentions. If his wish to give me a celebratory dinner unencumbered by complaint and overpriced, uneaten mac and cheese went mostly awry, at least I know his heart was in the right place.

There was the hungover Mother’s Day following a fabulous soireê at a friend’s New York loft, where my family met me that sunny Sunday morning for a walk through Central Park and overpriced deli sandwiches, and my favorite Mother’s Day to date; the one spent at the art museum, followed by dinner at an out of the way Mom & Pop Italian restaurant in the village called Rocco’s. The waiters wore tuxes and spread a table cloth out under my then, 4 year old son to catch stray pasta. They treated him like a prince and me like a Queen. Afterwards, we strolled through Washington Square Park and stopped by the fountain to watch a troupe of fire-eating sword swallowers do their thing. Now that’s my kind of Mother’s Day. Offbeat, unexpected, totally unpredictable and delightfully twisted. Because while I appreciate life’s finer things, I’m also offbeat, totally unpredictable and slightly twisted myself.

I’m no precious snowflake.

This Mother’s Day, I don’t know what’s in store. I have no plans, nor do I have any particular inklings, food wise or otherwise. I might just spend the day out in the garden drinking margaritas or taking a nap in the hammock. The one thing I do know is that thoughtful handmade gifts from my children are to be cherished, meals and time spent together is memorable, and the joy of motherhood is a treasure.

And no two Mother’s Days are the same. Kind of like mothers. And snowflakes.

Here’s wishing you and your Mothers a Happy Mother’s Day too!

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