He would say. Over the mid-tone classical music playing in the background. From the end of table, or the head of it. Depending which way you looked at it.
The dinner table brings back fond memories of my childhood. It was the place where we all gathered after our days and told stories to one another. Dry, sarcastic over lays were clearly evident within our family, alongside tears of laughter grappling with such belly laughs. There was only one rule. No TV.
As the classical music was carefully selected, my sister and I would pretend to be conductors. Swinging our knives and fork above our heads. She was just fantastic and I was in awe of her. The way she swung her arms around with such intention, her face full of poise. Everything she did was dramatic and play like. It’s hard not to be come mesmerized. Her stories were always acted out, outside of the chair. A random meeting during the day, would be relayed to us, a mini matinee, a magical 5 minutes. She was a dancer, and very much a storyteller. I copied her as much as I could.
My favorite meal was one involving mash potato and broccoli. I loved molding landscapes out of the mash, and placing tree’s on the horizon, next to the schnitzel which was clearly the desert. Watering it all with lemon, yet becoming hesitant when it was time to actually eat it. My dad loved telling stories using food. Explaining things with salt and pepper, or grabbing an orange to explain something about the earth. One thing I couldn’t stand though was zucchini. I ate pretty much everything else, and I could feel that it would be disrespectful if I said otherwise. But those zucchini nights were hell. My parents would not let me leave the table till it was all gone. Dad used to say,
‘I saw a man the other day dead on the road, he was holding a sign that said, Ate Too Much Zucchini, his tounge pocking out. When I’m old you can feed me all the zucchini you want.’
He would always tell the same jokes, ones that weren’t funny. We would tell him that he’s said that one. But I think he found it funny, that the joke wasn’t funny to begin with, and secondly even funnier that he had told it and it still wasn’t funny. I’m not going to lie, my face red, most probably tears, sitting there conjuring up images of him old. Myself, force feeding him cold zucchini, laughing like a villain. Even when he hadn’t finished his last mouthful, clearly out of breath, eye’s bulging, I’d be shoving more zucchini in his gob. Sometimes on zucchini nights I was at the table long after my bed time. Alone. I learnt to hold my nose whilst eating it, you can’t taste it. But your mind still knows it’s zucchini. And it still sucked.
At the ripe old age of 5, for some reason, I had an affinity for the ‘The Phantom of the Opera’. When I got to pick the dinner track, it was this CD. I remember begging my dad to take me to the theatre to see it. Starring at the guide book asking all these questions about his face. Why was he wearing a mask? Dad explained (his favorite thing to do) that his face was mangled and ugly. He hid away from everyone and wore a mask. He also informed me that opera music could smash glass, due to its vibrations, and that glass was actually a liquid. Steering away from emotional talk, as quick he could. It wasn’t his thing. Instantly I became overwhelmed with immense empathy. About the love bit, not the scientific facts. When the phantom came out on stage, I cried. And when they sung to each other, I felt something, so beautiful, it made me disappear.
My dad and I became extremely distant not long after this for some reason. I could never quite understand why, and it hurt deeply.
This film is for you, Dad.