We took the boys to Ruby Tuesday tonight to thank them for doing such an incredible job of taking care of me and helping me and protecting me and obeying me and respecting me and generally being very knightly and manly while their dad is gone.
Ruby Tuesday isn't on my list of super fancy restaurants, but we usually take the boys to Shari's or Izzy's, so it was fancy for them.
We made them dress in school clothes with no logos. James wore a nice white polo shirt and Jonathan wore a blue and white striped t-shirt. I figured they would take the fanciness of it more seriously if they dressed the part.
When we arrived at our table, the first thing I noticed as we all sat down was that James had zipped his hoodie up all the way, pulled it tightly around his face, and shrunk as far back into it as he could.
Going to new restaurants is difficult for him because the menu is different and that is very risky business. Plus, there was a lot of restaurant noise, the lights were a little bright, and the muzak speaker was right above our table.
I made eye contact with James and said, "James, before you look at the menu, I want you to look at me. Listen. I promise you that we will find something on the menu that you like to eat."
When James looked at the menu, he got confused and overwhelmed, which he displayed by resting his head face-down on the table, smooshing his nose. I asked him if he had found anything he liked on the menu, and he replied, all muffled by hoodie and table, "No. There's nothing."
I told him we would look together, and we found three entree choices he liked (mac and cheese, mini cheeseburgers, grilled cheese sandwich), and two sides (grapes, apples). We also found milk.
James chose grilled cheese, grapes, and milk.
Our dinnerware was rolled into our napkins. James picked his up and said, "What is THAT?" I told him fancy restaurants sometimes rolled the dinnerware into napkins. "Weird," he declared.
When our drinks arrive, so did four coasters. "What are THESE?" James wanted to know. I explained all about coasters. James is now a big fan. They definitely appeal to his sense of order in the universe.
Then the appetizers came. We got a small plate of spinach and artichoke dip with yellow and black tortilla chips for Jeff and me, and fried mozzarella cheese for the boys. They both manfully tried the spinach and artichoke dip, and they were not supremely alarmed by the black tortilla chips after I promised them they tasted just the same as the yellow ones.
The mozzarella sticks took some time. First, they looked to James like chicken strips, which he does not like. Secondly, they were way too hot. Third, there was a mysterious and dangerous red sauce on the plate next to them, and God only knows what poisons it contained.
After the cheese sticks had cooled enough to be handled by sensitive fingers, James tried a bite and fell in love with my favorite appetizer. He even tried the dip after confirming that it had no poison, but was indeed mostly tomato sauce, as his mother claimed.
Both boys drained their drinks before the entrees arrived, so they both requested refills. Jonathan's refill came before the meal, but James's did not. His entree came first. He could not start eating his entree until his drink arrived. We explained that the wait staff was busy and we were sure the server would keep her word and bring him some milk, and if she forgot, we would remind her.
Jeff, Jonathan and I began to eat our entrees, but James just sat and stared at his. I suggested that he could go ahead and begin eating while he waited for his drink, but he said, "No. I can't. I need my drink." Providentially, it arrived just as he was finishing his sentence, and he was able to eat with us before his food got cold.
During the meal, Jeff told the boys that this was the kind of restaurant you could bring a girl to on a date. They were very curious. "So... what happens on a date, anyway?" Jeff gave them a good explanation about how to take a girl on a date, and they took notes for the future.
When James had finished eating, he rose halfway off the bench and said, "Uh... can we go now? I'm full."
Jeff told him we needed to wait for the check. "What are they going to check?" James wanted to know. We explained about restaurant bills. He sat back down.
When the check arrived, James prepared to stand again. When our server took it away to ring it up, James tried to stand again. When she returned it for Jeff to sign, James stood up again.
Finally, it was actually time to leave. We exited the restaurant into a heavy rainstorm that had only been a slight sprinkle when we entered. Jeff went to bring the car around while we waited under shelter. James found a dry spot on a bench and sat down. Jonathan was left with a damp spot, so he scooted as close as he could to James, and they huddled together like our puppies do every time they nap.
When Jeff arrived with the Jeep, I walked right out to it and got in. As I closed my door and turned to grab my seatbelt, I saw both of my children, still standing by the front door of the restaurant, planning the best way to get to the car. I heard James give some sort of instruction to Jonathan, and then Jonathan ran as fast as he could the ten feet from him to us, yanked the back door open, and dove in, shouting to James, "GO!"
When James got the signal from Jonathan, he sprinted to the car, bounded into his seat, and slammed his door shut. "Whew! We made it!" he said cheerfully.
Later, at home, I asked James what he thought of the fancy restaurant.
"It was okay. I liked it," he replied.
Wishing so much (for his whole life) that he would open up more, I prompted him, "You liked it, eh?"
"Yeah," he said matter-of-factly over his shoulder as he walked away, "I kinda like being fancy."
Sir James, my brave knight. Mighty Conqueror of New Restaurants.