Dinners Worth Remembering
Written by: Michelle Sadorsky
I took one last look at my residence building, the sun rolling and bouncing off the large glass panels overlooking the dining hall. Nobody was around, the parking lot devoid of vehicles and chatter, the small courtyard empty aside for a few waddling geese.
"All packed up?" my dad called, stuffing a large grey suitcase into the vehicle.
"Yeah,"I said, trying to capture the dark bricks lining the exterior of the building, and the faint smells of sausage and eggs cooking up in the dining area.
I never imagined first year would end so suddenly. So much was left unfulfilled: the stress of exams, the anticipated Ontario Hall Formal, the sleepless yet eventful nights with friends.
Before I let myself fall into a vicious cycle of what ifs, I turned my back to the grand walls and climbed into the vehicle.
COVID snuck up on us. In December of 2019, it was a whisper strung up in small news articles that faded into white noise. Then, the whisper grew louder. The disease was spreading, it said. People grew concerned but refrained from jumping to conclusions. Fearing that if the world knew, then normality would be disrupted, and there was nothing more terrifying than that.
Whispers became a cry as Europe received its first cases. For some, it became a matter of when, while others covered their ears, thinking how could it possibly reach us? It eventually did, and the fear of knowing too little was so overbearing that the only thing one could say with certainty was: this isn't normal anymore.
Quarantine became my reality. In the already uneventful town of Richmond Hill, nobody was outside to witness the blooming of the Spring Cresses. Nobody was around to feed the ducks in the wetlands. Not even the great cargo trains passed with their brutish noisiness. A great flannel of silence settled over the town. But remember that a flannel is warm and fuzzy, a guard against the bitter cold. For me, that's what quarantine brought - a gentle blanket between the world and my family. It changed the very dynamics of my household.
My family has a long, unspoken tradition of sharing a dinner. Even on my busiest high school days, I'd still come down to enjoy a homemade meal. This sounds nice, right?
I left out the part where mealtime involved flipping through TV channels, eating in silence, and the quiet "excuse me" as someone left the table to go back to their work. This wasn't a family meal - it was a dull silence.
That is, until quarantine. Suddenly, I no longer had so much work on my plate. My parents, bless their souls, quickly shifted all their classes online.
The change began subtly, when I took the offer in accompanying my dad to the grocery store. This was out of the ordinary; usually, my parents would deal with groceries. Perusing down the aisles, I picked up a frozen package of shrimp and thought: why not treat my family to a nice dinner tonight?
My sister helped. She fixed a lovely salad for everyone, while my mom worked on setting the table as dad kept a lazy eye on the pasta. We gathered with a sense of accomplishment, dad passing my sister and I a beer under my mother's disapproving gaze.
It went uphill from there - now, I was preparing a variety of dinners with my family, ranging from questionable seafood dishes to jovial taco nights. My sister made use of her Netflix account so we'd all binge The Witcher, which became a topic of discussion and debate I could look forward to every evening.
When the nights were warm and mellow, my mother brought out her speaker to play some classical jazz music on the backyard patio. Suddenly, we weren't sitting in silence in front of a dull screen. We were outside, buddying-up with the mosquitoes and talking. We'd stay well past sunset, sneaking in bites of tiramisu between conversation.
The day before our trip back to London, my sister and I produced a Greek-inspired dish in celebration of our parents' 30th anniversary. Pictures were taken, beers were split.
It was a night to remember.
The trip back to Western was a quiet one. Once we came up to our unit, my dad pulled me into a hug, bidding me a quiet goodbye. Mother followed shortly thereafter.
"I love you," my mother said.
I beamed. "I love you most."