Path of Dreams

Chapter 6

Dinner Invitations

Elly arrived home six hours later. “Tadaima.” she called out.

“O-kaeri,” Melanie answered from the kitchen.

Elly collapsed on the couch. Her roommate appeared in the doorway. “How was work, dear?”

“The longest three hours of my life.”

“Isn’t it a two-hour class?”

“Not counting office hours. Uncle told me to put together the lesson plan for tomorrow’s class. I somewhat panicked.”

“He’s not going to make you start teaching after one day, is he?”

“He promised he wouldn’t make me teach all two hours. But knowing Uncle, I’ll end up teaching one hour, fifty-nine minutes.”

“Sounds like being a junior companion all over again.”

It was exactly like being a junior companion again. And like observing her senior companion, she’d caught onto her uncle’s methodology quickly enough. It involved simplifying the elements of a dialogue so that the students could grasp the meaning without explanations in English.

Thankfully, the entire two hour class wasn’t devoted to the immersion approach. Reading and writing lessons took up the balance. Except for one or two of her students—in particular, a kid named Bradley—the rest hardly knew any Japanese at all, other than sushi, karaoke, and origami.

“You’ll get better at it,” Melanie said encouragingly. “Junior companions eventually turn into senior companions.”

The phone rang. Melanie darted back to the kitchen. She returned to the living room and tossed Elly the phone. “Your General Authority.”

“Hi, Grandpa.”

“Elly!” his voice boomed over the phone. “How’s my favorite granddaughter?”

“You’ve got a dozen grandkids, Grandpa. You can’t fool me.”

“Oh, but you’re the cutest.”

During her teenage years, her grandfather’s effusive nature only made Elly roll her eyes. Once in a moment of adolescent pique she’d asked her mother, “Why does Grandpa pretend he likes me so much?”

Her mother answered with a cross look. “He isn’t pretending. He only wants you to have no doubts about his affection for you.”

When she grew older, Elly came to appreciate the attention he lavished on her.

Her grandfather said, “We haven’t seen you since we picked you up at the airport. Why don’t you come for dinner on Sunday? You can bring that pretty roommate of yours along too.”

“Sure, Grandpa.” Elly covered the mouthpiece and shouted, “Mel, do you want to have Sunday dinner with my grandparents?”


“Okay, we’ll be there, Grandpa, around one or so.”

“Maybe we’ll have a few other guests over as well.”

She knew right then he was winking at Grandma. Elly sighed to herself. But she wasn’t dissuaded. “Okay, Grandpa, see you Sunday.”

He said goodbye. Elly returned the phone to its cradle in the kitchen. “You know they’ll be inviting the most available bachelors in their ward to dinner.”

“I know. Eating dinner with your grandparents is like getting a fortune cookie before the meal. And you have to admit, your grandma does have good taste in men.”

“Yeah, I suppose.”

“You don’t appreciate what it’s like to have interesting relatives, Elly. I mean, the Ohs aren’t just Japanese, they’re interesting Japanese.”

“In other words, they’re odd.”

Melanie checked the rice cooker. “Take your Grandpa Packard, for example. He makes growing old look like a ton of fun.”

“I think it’s a curse. May you have interesting relatives.

“At least yours are around to be interesting. All of my grands are on the cruise ship circuit: Hi, Melanie. Bye, Melanie. See you at Christmas, Melanie. By the way, married yet? That and the occasional postcard recommending another honeymoon spot. Hint, hint.

“That sounds just like Grandpa and Grandma Packard. Except it’s the CES and Education Week circuits. And they’re always asking when I’m going to get married.”

“Yeah, but they mean it. I don’t mind buttinskies as long as they take the job seriously.”

“Then I’m surrounded by professionals.”

“That’s what PE is all about: a degree in telling people what to do, and then making them feel guilty when they don’t do it.”

“Sounds just like Grandpa’s job.”

A half mile east across Kiwanis Park, a block up the East Bench, Connor was setting the table as Aunt Wanda got the tuna casserole out of the oven. She said, “Connor, your cousin invited us to dinner Sunday.”

Connor reminded himself again that one of these days he was going to write a paper about how word usage determined familial boundaries and group inclusion. If his aunt had said, “My daughter,” that meant that she was invited to some event confined to her nuclear family. “Your cousin” meant both of them, and any number of other relatives.

“Your cousin” was somewhat problematic as well. As the youngest son of a youngest son, the pedigree of his extended family slipped a generation. His nieces and nephews were more like his cousins, his cousins like his aunts and uncles. On top of that, growing up in New York meant he didn’t know his cousins very well, which put another degree of separation between them.

And then there was the house. His grandfather’s house. He couldn’t do anything about that. Anyway, a meal was a meal, and Lynne and Glenn and their kids (one teenager, Mike, still left at home) were good company. Uncle Martin (his father’s and Wanda’s older brother) would be there, and Connor liked Uncle Martin too.

“Sure,” he said.

“You’re usually finished by one, aren’t you? I’ll let Lynne know.”

Aunt Wanda took off her smock and they sat down to eat.

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