Taking a Seat at the Good Table
Published: Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 23:02
Dinner with my family is a bit of a workout.
Do not misunderstand me. I was ecstatic that my family drove up to Boston from Jersey for my mother’s birthday dinner at the delicious steakhouse Grill 23 on Berkeley Street, but the Towey family is what you might call “indecisive.”
And that indecision carries with us every step of the way. Should we check our coats? Is this table too close to the kitchen? To the cold drafts from the door? To the entrance to the bathroom? To other tables? We are not a spoiled bunch, but all of us agree that we are insufferable brats when it comes to seating.
Luckily, the parts of our brain not dedicated to indecision are occupied by contentment, the part of the brain that helps us to decide that we are better off sitting at the table we were seated at than making the hardworking staff go through the trouble of moving us. Someone has to sit there, and we are happy to do it.
Regardless of our eventual contentment, I was left particularly worn out by our meal this past Saturday. I had just trudged through a particularly hard week, and the walk back to our Boston hotel from the restaurant was bitingly cold.
I ended up walking a bit ahead of my family, as I knew the way, only to happen upon the Boston Public Garden and Boston Common, of which we had a view from our hotel room. The wind was still whipping down the line of lit trees along the Commonwealth Mall, but I was feeling intrepid. I told my family I was going to walk through the Boston Gardens, as I had yet to do so with snow on the ground. My mother and sister were having absolutely none of that, but my father jumped on board.
As my father and I passed through the entrance of the Garden, I looked up at the Boston skyline rising above the Common. We walked to the foot bridge, where my dad looked at me, patted my shoulder, and said, “This is a great town.”
Though this column is typically dedicated to the written word, there are some moments so brief, so fleeting, that only the visual arts can capture them. When my father’s hand landed upon my shoulder, I was reminded of a painting that I had admired months earlier in the Museum of Fine Arts.
Childe Hassam’s “Boston Common at Twilight,” completed in 1886, is Hassam’s impressionist depiction of a mother and her children walking along a snow-covered Boston Common as the sun sets. Hassam was born in Boston to a hardworking Dorchester family, and therefore would have known how to depict a family enjoying the outdoors even in the winter. “Boston Common at Twilight” is worth seeing in person. If you do take the worthwhile trek to the MFA to see this favorite work of mine, I hope that you will feel a sense of security and serenity similar to that which it provides me.
Juxtaposed against the gentle wintry surroundings in Hassam’s work, the painting’s characters appear impervious to the cold, as if shielded by their being together.
Before returning to the hotel, my father and I enjoyed some light conversation on the foot bridge, the contents of which I will never remember.
What I will remember is standing at a window in the hotel room after the rest of my family had gone to sleep. I looked down at the Public Garden, the snow glowing from the street lamps.
I felt as if I could still see my father and me on the foot bridge, just as Hassam may have painted us there if he had witnessed it.
Our lives are filled with endless indecision, but when I looked back at my sleeping family, I considered myself lucky to have been seated at my table in life.