It started with french fries. Caleb asked if we could make purple french fries, like we used to do in New York, with the purple potatoes from the Union Square Farmer’s Market.

No purple potatoes here that I can see, but I decided to make french fries anyway, using ordinary Idaho potatoes–from Oman.

Miracle of miracles, we were all home tonight–no soccer practice, no meetings, no plans–and so: french fries. Caleb said he’d help and so he scrubbed the potatoes while I started oil heating in the pan. Liam followed us into the kitchen (what? little brother will get mommy all to himself? no freaking way) to talk at length about a project for his Arabic class that has him all excited.

Yes. That’s right. The prison school we’re sending him to, the school that has ruined his life, seems to have come up with an interesting project.

I started to be annoyed that Liam had chosen to ask for ideas and advice just as I started on dinner, instead of during the previous hour, when he’d been engrossed in a computer game, and then I had one of those little mini parenting AHA moments, sort of like an aneurysm except you don’t end up in the hospital.

“Bring your stuff in here and work at the table while we fix dinner,” I said. Okay. It’s not up there with E=MC2 but it worked. It worked because for the first time in the life our family, we have a kitchen big enough to hold more than one person: it’s a hideous space, with walls the color of congealed oatmeal and no windows (because of course, the assumption is that we would have a live-in maid and why would she want an window?). The world could end while we’re in there and we’d never know. We’d also probably survive.

Anyway. So there we all were: Liam sketching out his Arabic city; Caleb snapping the stems off green beans; me chopping Omani potatoes into french fry strips, WMVY telling us that it’s 43F in Edgartown (I loves me my streaming MVY, even though I’ve only been to the Vineyard maybe three times in my entire life).Β  The boys didn’t bicker; the french fries didn’t burn; I found enough unwilted mint and a wedge of lemon in the fridge to make a little sauce for the beans.

For the first time in what felt like weeks, we sat down as a family for dinner: merguez, french fries, beans.Β  Okay, true, Caleb ate only the french fries and Liam ate only the merguez (“I don’t like French fries,” he said. Who on god’s green earth doesn’t like French fries?); I ate most of the beans (added a little marinated feta to the lemon & mint because it’s not a meal without a dairy product); Husband, ever the omnivore, ate everything and finished the boys’ leftovers. He’s a bit like having a dog.

At dinner, Liam started telling scary-animal stories about Australia. “My friend was telling me that…” he started.

His wonderful sympathetic, empathic mother said “A friend? at the prison school? You mean a casual acquaintance, right? Surely not a friend?” (Because isn’t that why we have kids? So we can mock them relentlessly and later say “I told you so?”)

He laughed and laughed. “Right. A casual acquaintance who I don’t like much was saying that in Australia he saw a spider…”

Yes. It’s true. Apparently at the prison school my ruined-life son attends, he has CAWIDLM. We won’t call them friends. Yet.

Caleb said “I have friends. From Australia. And Nigeria. And they’ve seen spiders as big as MY HEAD.” He shuddered in delight.

It was just a family dinner. The kitchen is coated with a thin film of grease from the french fries, there are dishes stacked in the sink; the boys got ratty with each other as it got close to bedtime, just like they always do. And yet I felt sunshine in that windowless room this evening. It’s been gloomy around here since the boys started their new school and tonight was the first time in weeks I’ve seen Liam laugh and tell stories about school that weren’t about all the ways in which he feels miserable.

It was just a family dinner, but it felt, inshallah, like a beginning.


and hey guess what, it’s also the beginning of yeah write! #42 now open for linking up. c’mon over. bring your blog. or your comments, quips, and sparkling repartee. or just scary animal stories about australia: spiders, crocodiles, and rabid koalas (Liam’s CAWDILM swears it was rabid). So click, read, enjoy. Come back on Thursday and vote, vote, vote.