tea and sympathy

Today we had tea at The Huntington. We hadn’t been for a while. B called and got reservations at the last minute. Apparently we weren’t the only people who had this idea, as lots of people with reservations were waiting to be seated.

There was one woman who I overheard sitting on a bench outside telling a man, who I suspected was her husband, that they were seating people who did not have reservations over those that did. She was being a bit obnoxious about it really. Her husband just let her vent.

Clearly a lot of people were there to celebrate Mother’s Day early and were taking their time to enjoy the day. The Huntington tea is unique in that they serve it buffet style. They bring you a basket of scones, take your tea order, and then invite you to the buffet that is set out with assorted finger sandwiches, fruit, cheese and various sweets. You can go back as often as you like.

I later saw her back at the check-in area. She started going off on the woman behind the counter, complaining that she didn’t feel it was right that she had a reservation and was being made to wait. The woman explained that they couldn’t ask the other people to just leave. To this she complained that she had her grandchildren with her and had come from out of town. It was hot outside and they were hungry. The woman behind the counter offered to get her some fruit cups for the children while they waited. She accepted them, but wasn’t very gracious about it.

This is going to sound really weird, but I think I may have known these people. I’ll never be sure, because I didn’t ask. I didn’t think it would be appropriate. I don’t know what the protocol is for these things. I almost tried to join in the conversation or peek at the reservation sheet, but I didn’t.

How do I say this, except to just say it. Her husband and my mother had an on and off affair over six years (if they are who I think they are). It took them across this continent. His wife actually followed him with their children.

I only had very brief contact with his wife on two occasions. The first time I made the mistake of saying that he was there. I was eight and didn’t know he was married. I got shoved down a flight of stairs by my mother with my sister and our dog as we huddled and listened to them fight in our living room.

The second time I didn’t even see her. She once again came to our house (now 3000 miles away and six years later) and had it out with the two of them. We were sent to our room, but I opened the window to hear better (survival mode), although I couldn’t quote anything that was said that evening.

I thought about contacting him up after my mother died, but I didn’t. What could I say really? And the idea of grieving with him was just wrong.

During those years there were times that he lived with us. He tried to act fatherly in his own way, but it mostly brought out in me sarcasm. There would be times when we would just go at each other with words. Sparks flew. Let’s just say I can relate to Lolita’s character, although the relationship was not like that.

He taught me to play chess. I beat him. He didn’t like that at all. He would pay me to iron his shirts. The last time I saw him was my graduation from 8th grade. He showed up uninvited. That was almost 30 years ago.

So really, what could be said? I am surprised to learn he and his wife are still together (if you believe Google). Hey, Bozo (that was his nickname)? And really, what are the odds it was him? Although I should mention that The Huntington is a place I feel connected to my mother. Was she playing with us today?

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