Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Habachi Heat

My youngest brother turned 21 on Monday and to celebrate, he and his girlfriend drove down Sunday night from New London for dinner with the family.

The plan was a 5:00 reservation time at a Japanese Hibachi restaurant by the Wild Man's house. When my mom called earlier in the day to tell me that they wouldn't be able to accommodate us all (10 adults and 4 kids) at that time, I should have known we were in for it.

When my other brother asked me if the kids would be okay sitting around a hibachi grill, I replied "I am sure they will be fine, it isn't like they are going to climb onto it." Perhaps I should have put a little more thought into it. I also should have remembered that my girlfriend went out for Hibachi on her birthday in February and her 6 year-old was scared of the flames so they moved to a booth. Hindsight. . .

My youngest brother, his girlfriend, me, my husband and the Ladies arrived about 15 minutes early for our 6:30 reservation. The place was packed and you could see the smoke from the grills in the lights above. The smell kind of reminded me of when the pizza in my oven starts burning, I was hoping not to have the shrill sound of fire alarms start piercing the air.

Since our entire party hadn't arrived and considering that there wasn't an empty seat in the place, we waited in the entry area for everyone to get there. I started sweating. I was wearing a tank top under a pretty heavy fleece pull-over, and every time a new customer arrived I was grateful that the door opened and let in some cool air.

I put the Little Lady on the floor in her car seat to wait. As soon as she hit the floor the little girl waiting in front of us was right in her face. Luckily, her parents were attentive. I don't mind if a little kid touches her feet or hands, but it makes me crazy when other parents let their kids get right into a baby's face and act like it isn't a big deal. Now, I usually tell kids--including the Lady that you don't touch or put anything on a baby's face, but I think that it is the responsibility of the other kids parents to reiterate the rules or at least ask if it is okay that their kid is touching a baby. I know, I digress. . . anyway, this family was actually very nice and the girl was gentle and didn't get too close, however, I was grateful when they sat down, because not only was the Little Lady given some breathing room, we were able to actually use the seating area in the waiting area. Did I mention it was getting hotter by the moment?

Finally, all 14 of us arrive, but we still have to wait for the table. When we are finally given the OK to head over to our seat, the Wild Man and the Lady were down a hallway banging on the walls and the smell of seared meat was permeating every bit of my clothing.

We got high chairs for all the kids and put the Little Ladies in the back corner, resting on the overturned high chair and still in their infant seats. I had the Wild Man to the left of me and the Lady to the right. They were momentarily distracted by the chopsticks, until the Wild Man threw his (twice) onto the warming grill, where they had to be carefully excised by both of his parents.

All the while, the kids are seeing the flames shoot up from other grills around us. The Lady does not seem to be too happy. I can tell she is a little nervous, but I tried to prepare her for the show. The Wild Man is napless and not too happy to be confined to a high chair. He too, is not sold on the fire show, even though he loves all things fireman related. I guess a raincoat and a fire helmet are one thing, but hot flames a foot and a half away are something else all together.

My father, being the doting grandfather as well as being incapable of saying no to any of his grandchildren, has started taking the kids in turn, on laps around the restaurant. This keeps them occupied enough for all of us to order, by the time the chef wheels his cart to our table, the kids are (mostly) behaving.

Then the show starts and with the first burst of flames comes the tears! The Wild Man is inconsolable, the Lady, her big eyes larger than I have ever seen them keeps telling me that she wants her dad who is sitting three seats away, holding the Little Lady who he described as holding onto him with a "death clutch" while screaming. The only saving grace was that the place was so crowded that you could barely hear them over everyone else. The only one seemingly unfazed was the other Little Lady sitting quietly in her infant seat in the corner. She was also the furthest away from the show and is traumatized daily by kicks, jabs and too much hugging from her big brother to be in the least bit fazed by three foot high flames. When the chef got to recreating Mt. Fuji out of onions and flame, we were all holding our breaths.

Did I mention it was hot in there?

We spent the rest of the meal in and out of our seats. Between, my dad walking the kids around, the passing back and forth of the little Ladies to eat, my brother--whose birthday it was--getting up and going outside for air because of his "anxiety" over all the people there, and the smoke, we did more standing and walking then actually sitting and enjoying the meal, which was actually very good.

Needless to say, we all collectively exhaled when the food got packed up, the bill got paid and we all left into the cool, springlike night air and headed back to my sister's for some ice cream cake, where I thought we would escape the flames, until my brother, holding the Lady so she could help blow out candles accidentally dipped her hair into a candle. The smell of singed hair lingered a bit and mingled with the meat smell on my clothes, but she was fine and didn't even know it happened.

Growing up in a big family I guess I never realized how many of us there really are. Add four kids to the mix and things get even bigger and more complicated. I am glad that we make the effort to get together and that the kids can be involved. I was happy to see my little brother, who I can't believe is 21, considering I remember the day he arrived at our door. Everyone headed out after cake and presents. We too headed out after I picked up every single one of the Wild Man's books that he and the Lady threw onto his bedroom floor.

Oh Hibachi. . . how I miss the days where we would share 5 or 6 fruity mixed drinks, laugh at the antics of the chef and more often then not end up either dancing or saying something borderline inappropriate. Good times.

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