A Bird Under a Glass Lid
By Heather Hale-Van Kleek
Black patent leather Mary Janes and white tights. Check. Red (faux leather) purse with a gold chain strap. Check. White gloves with mini pearl buttons. Check. These items are from the mental checklist my mother had to go through while getting me dressed to see my grandparents. This particular evening, it was extra important that I be dressed up, dolled up or as I saw it – wearing my big girl clothes. This was my first dinner out with my grandparents without my parents.
I’d like to think that I waited patiently and angelically for my grandparents to come pick me up in their rented town car; however, I’m sure my mother recalls me running around the house, fidgeting with my dress and yanking at my tights. Their visits were rare and always extra special to my brother and me as they stayed downtown in a hotel – and, when you are under age ten, a hotel is often the equivalent of a trip to Disneyland – new, exciting, different.
Finally, my grandparents arrived, and I was buckled into the back seat of the car. I remember sliding my hips back and forth so my dress would make swishing sounds on the leather seats. I also remember asking Granny (yes that was what we called her) for a Certs. I had no concept of what a breath mint was, but she always kept a roll in her purse and to me it was candy. I couldn’t have been happier. I felt so adult.
My grandfather had made reservations at the restaurant in their hotel – a tie and jacket required establishment. This may seem strange to most. The idea of taking a five year-old to such a place would frighten most parents, let alone grandparents. Yet, looking back, I don’t think my grandparents would have gone anywhere else. I’m pretty sure they viewed their grandchildren as little people not little children. It would never have occurred to them to take me to the equivalent of, say, today’s Red Robin and order chicken strips.
So, I sat in a chair way too big for my five year-old body and played grown-up with my grandparents. I didn’t have milk to drink like my mother would have required. While they drank cocktails, I had a Shirley Temple. I didn’t eat all of my dinner, but I got dessert. There were no crayons for entertainment. No paper menus to scribble on or play tic-tac-toe upon. Nothing to play with – just grandparents to talk with – and I had a ball.
After they had dropped me off, and my big girl clothes were put away, my mother tucked me in and asked about my evening. I chatted happily about my bubbly drink with the cherry in it; I laughed about having to sit on a phone book because the restaurant didn’t have booster seats, and I told her all about eating the bird under the glass lid. This last part gave her pause. To this day, I don’t know how she kept a straight face as she asked me question after question, to eventually discover that I had told my grandfather I wanted chicken for dinner, and he ordered pheasant under glass.
Here we are, decades later, and every time I put a pair of shiny, black shoes on my daughter, I can’t help but smile and think of the evening I dressed up, played grown-up and ate a bird under a glass lid.
About this writer
- Heather Hale-Van Kleek has spent many years as a freelance copy editor and proofreader and is now finding much joy in the role of writer. She squeezes in her writing time between shifts as the taxi driver for her three active and creative children. Heather is a proud stay-at-home mom living in Tualatin, Oregon.