Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Poor Suckers

When our daughter Josephine was born, we lived in an apartment on 1st Avenue above Seattle's Pike Place Market. This was back in the mid-90's, before downtown had become a popular place to live. We had just returned from four years in Germany, however, and the area was the part of the city that reminded us every day that we were back home, so we wanted to be there, at least for awhile. As Josephine grew and became more mobile, we began to feel that we wanted her to have a little more space and a yard of her own, so we bought a house in the Seward Park neighborhood in the southend, a 17 minute drive away.

Josephine and I would spend a lot of time together downtown, especially after Jennifer went back to work, even though we no longer lived there. Several major new developments had opened during the late 80's just before we had moved away so Josephine and I spent a lot of mornings checking them out, or going to the Seattle Art Museum, or hanging out in the market, then we would have lunch together. And for us that meant a proper sit down lunch.

I know now that we were lucky to have a daughter constitutionally capable of enjoying a restaurant meal and she did, very much. Even as an 18-month old we would discuss the pros and cons of various establishments, reading menus in the window, remembering past meals, considering views and service, before finally settling on one.

Among our favorite spots was a corporate-style place located on the top floor of the mall portion of the City Centre building on 6th Avenue called Palomino, which is still there. It catered to a business crowd at lunch and having only a few years earlier "escaped" the suit-and-tie lifestyle, it delighted me to be there as a daddy with his little girl. One day as we talked about our fellow diners, I said, "I feel sorry for these guys because they don't get to have lunch with their children."

She was struck by that and fell silent for a moment watching them knife and fork their way through their working lunches, before saying, "Where are their children?"

"At home, I guess, or in school."

"I'm sorry for them," she agreed.

I nodded, "Poor suckers." She found the expression funny and so it turned into our nickname for Palamino from that moment forward: The Poor Suckers Restaurant.

We were mini-celebrities at Palamino for a time. The waitstaff was mostly young women who were charmed by Josephine in her floral print dresses. Her favorite dish was a squash soup with a pad of butter melting on top. By the time she was two she had figured out how restaurants work. If the table needed more bread, for instance, she would look pointedly at a waiter and raise her finger in the air the way she had seen me do it. In the beginning, I would have to mirror her gesture over her head to actually get service, but after a few weeks as regulars, she didn't need even that support. Someone had said to me that women tend to pick husbands who are like their own fathers, so I decided to be the best date she would ever have, focusing my full attentions on her, asking her for her thoughts and opinions, and generally behaving in the ways I wanted her future boyfriends to behave.

Before having a child, there were many promises Jennifer and I made ourselves about the kinds of parents we would be. We were late starters as parents among our friends, so had, as non-parents, seen how "badly behaved" they were, how "spoiled," and how they seemed to "ruin" our good times by demanding all the attention. When the realities of parenting hit, however, we quickly recognized how unintentionally mean-spirited we had been as we eventually broke every single one of those promises we had made in our ignorance, with one exception: our kid would know how to behave in a restaurant.

Today Josephine is definitely a city girl, like her parents, having chosen to attend NYU in the heart of Manhattan and we still like to go to restaurants together where I ask her about herself and take a moment to feel sorry for all the poor suckers.


Note: Over the holiday break I started a new blogging project called Stories from 6th Avenue. Essentially, it's a place to publish my non-education related writing. It's been a long time coming so I'm excited to get it off the ground. It's still under construction and I don't expect it will have general appeal to Teacher Tom readers unless you have a particular interest in my thoughts and memories about downtown Seattle. I will likely be cross-posting a version of this piece over there in the next few days. Just wanted you to know.

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