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Artfully dodging “the question”

The Jacksons from the April 12, 2018 issue of the Manitoba Co-operator

cartoon image of a family seated at a table

This place is so interesting!” Jennifer Jackson looked around the little restaurant as she spoke. “It’s like somebody decorated it 70 years ago and then randomly changed a few things every 10 years or so.”

She pointed at the corner behind her mother Rose, who was sitting across from her at the table. “Like, the wall to your right has velvet patterned wallpaper from the 1960s and the wall to your right would look right at home in an Earls restaurant in the city.”

Rose chuckled and then nodded her head in the direction of a large oil painting hanging on the wall across the room. “I just love that painting,” she said. “If that isn’t quaint, I don’t know what is.”

Jennifer studied the painting briefly. “I think it must have been painted by a particularly sensitive family member,” she said, “and so they had to put it up so as not to precipitate an emotional crisis.”

“Good guess,” said Rose. “I love how the water on the lake is glassy smooth, except for one huge wave 10 feet from shore. It’s such a mystery. Like, where did the wave come from? Was there some sort of geological anomaly or what?”

“I like that the sandpiper on the beach is eating a minnow,” said Jennifer. “And also its knees bend the wrong way.”

“The whole thing is kind of mesmerizing,” said Rose. “It’s as if Pablo Picasso tried to paint a normal picture and almost succeeded, but not quite.”

Jennifer laughed. “I have to bring Al here to see it,” she said. “He could do a master’s thesis on it.” She paused. “So is this painting why you brought me out here to the middle of nowhere for lunch?”

“Only one of the reasons,” said Rose. “And it’s not the middle of nowhere. I suggested this because it’s the middle of ‘between the city and home.’ And because they make the best lasagna in the history of the universe.”

“What’s so good about it?” asked Jennifer.

Rose shrugged. “I don’t know,” she said. “Everything. When they put it down in front of you, you can’t take your eyes off it. It even steams just right. The sauce is made with tomatoes that must have been grown somewhere inside the pearly gates, the beef is ground up Kobe top sirloin, and they make the noodles from scratch every morning before they open.”

“I think I’ll have a grilled cheese sandwich,” said Jennifer, deadpan.

It was Rose’s turn to laugh. “Good choice,” she said, looking at her menu. “According to the picture, that would be two pieces of toast with a half-melted Kraft slice in between. Yummy!”

The two of them paused in their conversation as a server appeared from the kitchen to take their orders. “Two lasagnas and two garlic toasts? Anything to drink?”

“We’ll have a bottle of San Pelligrino,” said Rose. The server made a note on her pad and disappeared back into the kitchen, presumably to make the lasagna.

“Speaking of Al,” said Rose, “how are things with you two? We haven’t seen him for what seems like a long time.”

“Things are really good,” said Jennifer. “He is just the sweetest guy. He’s so much fun just to hang out with. Smart. Funny. Generous.”

“And very handsome,” said Rose.

“That goes without saying,” said Jennifer. She paused and looked as if she was going to say something else but then decided against it.

“OK, what is it?” said Rose.

“I’m a little worried about him,” said Jennifer.

“Really?” said Rose. “What about?”

Jennifer stared at the picture on the wall for a few seconds before she spoke.

“I think he might ask me to marry him,” she said.

Rose lowered her head and peered at her daughter over the top of her glasses. “Well, that would be terrible,” she said. “A complete disaster.”

“Mom!” said Jennifer.

“I’m kidding,” said Rose. “Are you saying you don’t want to marry him?”

Jennifer looked unsure. “Well, not now,” she said. “Not till I’m done university. Not till I’ve decided where I want to go after that.” She paused again. “Not till I’m ready,” she concluded.

“No one’s ever ready,” said Rose.

“What do I tell him if he asks?” said Jennifer.

“You should probably tell him the truth,” said Rose. “That’s usually the best policy.”

“Maybe I’ll just say yes,” said Jennifer, “and then if he asks when, I’ll say how about June 2028?”

“Good idea,” said Rose. “If that’s the truth.”

“Gah,” said Jennifer.

“Anyway, he might not ask,” said Rose. “And he might be fine with 2028. There are no guarantees.”

“None?” said Jennifer.

“Only about the lasagna,” said Rose.

“I guess I’ll be satisfied with that,” said Jennifer.

Rose grinned. “That you will,” she said. “That you definitely will.”

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