Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Weekday Dinner Conversations—Part II

     It's been working well asking each of our kids in turn, “What did you learn in school today?”—gets them thinking, remembering, sifting memories, and organizing thoughts (see my prior Weekday Dinner Conversations essay regarding.) I don't settle for general, vague answers such as, “I learned about history...”, either. Such answers net follow-up queries such as, “Can you be more specific? What's one new thing you learned?” And for each academic subject the routine's the same. It sometimes takes awhile, but it's informative, reinforcing, and engaging, requiring everyone to speechify.
     One recent night, Deanne decided to help Jaren, who, as youngest, struggles the most. “Didn't you learn about a princess, today?” He said no. (Deanne serves as a teacher's assistant at his school helping a higher grade special needs student. Sometimes the boy's studies corresponds in subject matter with Jaren's, just more advanced.) “Well I learned something. Would you like to hear it?”
     “Sure,” we said.
     “I learned that the song 'Aloha Oe' was written by Queen Liliuokalani. The idea for the song came from seeing lovers part ways.”
     Penelope said, “That's the song in Lilo and Stitch.”
     “Elvis Presley sang it, too.” said Deanne. 
     “Tia Carrera sang it in the movie, not Queen Liliuokalani,” I said. The kids laughed. “She did a good job. I thought the movie was well done.”
     “I also learned that Princess Pauahi—I can't remembered her maiden name—married Mr. Bishop when she was only nineteen.”
     With those few sentences, Deanne demonstrated more extensive knowledge of Hawaiian history than me. “Was the Summer Palace hers?” I asked.
     “No, that was Queen Emma's.” said Braden.
     “Oh, yeah, it was the Queen's, not the princess's.” As I went for seconds I announced, “Queen Emma married Mr. Summer and that's why they call it the Queen Emma Summer Palace.”
     The older kids laughed and Jaren joined in 'cause he knew I was joking. Deanne mock-scolded me, “Don't tell them wrong things,” then showed off, “I also learned King Kalakaua was elected King.”
     “I didn't know that,” I said, having returned to the table post-haste because I was hungry as a roach and those buggers are fast. “Did you know that Princess Pauahi's husband was a Bishop?” The kids shook their heads. “So they called him “Bishop Bishop.” They laughed again, having inherited my silliness gene that sets a quiver silliness cells of which their mouths, throats, eyes, noses, and stomachs have plenty. Made me feel good witnessing them laugh over non gross-out humor for once, toward which they're most partial, such as anything to do with


squished slugs, exploding cockroaches (in a microwave), and tasty hanagalas (thick, oozy, slimy, boogers—the kind you get at the tail end of a long, drippy cold: snort 'em and swallow 'em, and their taste and texture remind me of raw oysters, sans the metallic aftertaste. Michelin four star restaurants could save bundles serving hanagalas on half shell—one would do—without the high risk of food poisoning. Add a bit of hot sauce and yum! Btw, hanabata, a solider form of hanagalas, has an interesting etymology. Hana = nose (in Japanese); bata = butter (in pidgin), thus, hanabata, or nose butter = boogers. No joke!)


     (My high school friend—brilliant guy—once said, “Puns are the lowest form of humor.” Ever since, I've resorted to using them only when desperate for a cheap laugh, which means all-too-often 'cause I'm a thrifty guy.)
     Deanne continued her erudite discourse and dinner soon ended (no connection). As I prepared to bathe, I realized she'd missed a key fact so I called the kids together and said, “When King Kalakaua was young and single he was very attractive and talented. A lot of ladies had their eyes on him. So when he married, a lot of them were disappointed, jealous, and just little bit peeved—especially after he became king. They talked among themselves, calling him That Married Man. The nickname stuck and people henceforth called him, “The Married Monarch.” 
     “It's Merry Monarch!” said Penelope. 
     I nodded and felt a bit sheepish for my unsophisticated humor. (My high school teacher said satire is the highest form of humor as it gets audiences laughing at their flaws. Well, sometimes I mock the kids in an outlandish, comical way that gets them laughing (except the person being made fun of—some people have no senses of humor!) My excuse is our dinners last a loooongish hour so anything that lightens the mood in orderly fashion and that facilitates pleasantness, fellowship, and digestion is worth it. One of the perks of membership in our exclusive immediate family club is I don't have to be funny (though it helps). On the flip side, I need to be present (in body and mind), setting a proper tone with good humor, which I consider privilege more than responsibility anyway (there's nowhere I'd rather be). And as long as everyone enjoys themselves while learning and growing, I count a night's conversation a success. And we all look forward to our next dinner—especially since Deanne's such a super cook!


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