written by: Michael Natt
I usually visit my mother in New York City around her birthday in April. This year was no exception. However, this year my wife Cheryl, my daughter Rebecca and my granddaughter Violet came along. We usually eat one dinner at my mother’s favorite restaurant Blue Bay. Blue Bay is not the best restaurant in the world; it’s not even the best restaurant on Johnson Avenue, but it is the only place nearby where I can order one of my favorite dishes – broiled flounder.
My mother decided to stay at the apartment, so it was just to be me, my wife, my daughter and my granddaughter going out that night. My wife said, “Let’s go to Lieberman’s Deli. I would really like to get a corned beef sandwich.” “Yeah, I would like to eat at Lieberman’s too. The matzoh ball soup is delicious,” my daughter chimed in. “No way,” I responded, “I want to go to Blue Bay and get broiled flounder.” Violet was silent. So off we went to Blue Bay.
The waiter delivered the menus, and there it was in bold letters, “BROILED FLOUNDER”. I was salivating already. I ordered first, “I’ll take broiled flounder.” Everyone else ordered something, then the waiter went to the kitchen. I was primed for my favorite meal, and all was well in the world for me that afternoon. The waiter returned a minute later and said, “We are out of flounder.” My heart sank as did my appetite. “That’s what you get for only thinking of yourself,” my wife uttered. Then Violet spoke up, “Why does grandpa only think of himself, grandma?”
There I was – speechless – caught in the net of my own folly. The only flounder that got broiled that day was me. I don’t know if I have learned my lesson or not, but I know that the next time I come to New York with this group, I will not be eating broiled flounder.
My opportunity for redemption came very quickly though. We attended a family event 30 miles outside of the city the following day, and stopped at a diner for lunch where my wife got her corned beef sandwich, my daughter got her matzoh ball soup, and I got my flounder. But the flounder episode did not end there.
The word “flounder” has taken on a new meaning in our family. For example, when we returned from our trip and loaded our luggage in the car, I barely left enough room for my daughter to fit her carry-on luggage in the trunk. When she got into the car she said, “Dad ‘floundered’ again.” And indeed, I did! To make amends (not flounder) I put on her favorite radio station, rather than mine.
The truth is there are many opportunities to “flounder” or “not flounder” every day in our interactions with others. When you’re not around other people, it’s easy to not be a flounder. Being around other people can bring out the fish in us – the selfish.
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