Saturday, November 7, 2009

Silence 2

A no-frills religion, Quakerism. But if you like formality, as my father did, you can transform a moment of silence into something elaborate.

My new husband and I were seated at my parents' carefully set dining room table, east and west, with my parents at north and south. A portrait of my great-great grandfather as a girlish little boy, with ringlets, overlooked the room. The gleaming silver had the austerity of old bones.

"Shall we say a silent grace in the Friendly manner?" Dad spoke for Steve's benefit, enunciating every word as if it was a complete sentence in itself. I figured my husband already knew what was up.

We bowed our heads. The silence almost howled, it felt so empty. I have known silence to be as rich as plum cake, but in those days I always tense at my parents' house. We knew how long to keep our heads down, even Steve. You learn these things without realizing it; they seem instinctive.

Unfurled napkins were arranged on laps. Steve was hungry, and he picked up one of two mini-muffins from the edge of his plate. "These look good. Is there any butter?"

My father drew himself up with great dignity. This was a moral matter. He cleared his throat. "That's not necessary," he told my husband with gracious condescension.


Rudy said...

Oh my gosh... is butter not plain?

That sounds like one tense meal.

hmallon said...

Plain, yes, but not (apparently) necessary.