Things stick in your mind. Good things. Things to remember.
Sunday dinner. Important now. Important 50 years ago.
Kids look forward to it. Parents. Grandparents, too.
I could see Sam with Nora, 5, and almost-2-year-old Henry from a block away. They live down the street and were coming over for Sunday dinner.
When they saw me, they ran. Not Sam, he's had a few Sunday dinners in his life and he's not running for another one. The kids, who haven't had as many, ran as hard as they could because going to your grandparents' house for dinner is still a big deal. Especially on Sunday.
They ran fast, leaning forward, almost tripping over their own feet, they were so excited. They couldn't get there fast enough and if there hadn't been a street to cross, they would have run right into my arms.
Mine were open just like my Grandmother Benham's when we visited her in Santa Barbara. Dad's mom. Sweet, kind and warm like her son.
Santa Barbara and Sunday dinner were a big deal then. Fifty years ago, Santa Barbara was more welcoming than it seems today. Grandmother Benham made it even more so.
She didn't have a big place. She didn't need one. All she wanted was to occasionally see her grandchildren and when we knocked on the door, it was as if she had been standing there for hours, arms open, waiting to sweep us in.
Talk about a smile. She passed it down. At least to her great-great-grandchildren, because Henry and Nora had the same one as they ran down the street.
Who wouldn't? Their grandmother, Sue, cooked them pasta alla carbonara, spaghetti with bacon blanketed with fresh Parmesan. A warm loaf of ciabatta bread. Roasted broccoli, but no need to count that.
The menu is important, but it isn't everything. Grandmother would serve us hot dogs on soft buns along with beans on her good white plates. Hot dogs and beans seemed like a feast. Nothing could be better for kids who loved their grandmother.
At our place, Nora got a special drink: Jarritos lime soda. Fizzy, green and delicious. Want seconds? You can have seconds. Thirds, too. Anything is possible when it's Sunday dinner with your grandparents.
Before dinner, each kid had two M&M's from the special bowl in the dining room. Nora knows where it is. Henry is learning and he is now tall enough to reach the bowl on the sideboard.
Before we ate dinner, Henry wanted to sit in my old truck in the driveway. I don't know why kids like to sit in trucks, but they do. Even old trucks, dented trucks and trucks with dead batteries. They can push buttons, twirl the steering wheel and pretend they're going somewhere.
During dinner, Henry wanted to toast. "Cheers," he said over and over, raising his small glass of milk. "Cheers" sounded like "cheese," but cheese is also festive so that worked, too.
Nora asked for a second piece of bread. No problem. Want some honey with that? Because the honey bear is open for business. Honey will make good bread taste even better.
Nora almost ate her broccoli. "Almost" is good enough for a bowl of ice cream after dinner. Maybe not at home, but we're not at home.
After cleaning her bowl, Nora played pickup sticks with her father, who vowed not to lose to her but lost. It takes a lot for this father to lose any game to a person of any age.
Henry played with the TV, the cable box and somehow turned it on manually. I don't know how he did it. I do know we'll never be able to do it again.
Time to say goodbye. Henry didn't want to go. Nora either. They looked over the shoulders on their way down the street. They did not sprint. That's for Sundays.