Friday, December 28, 2012

The Great Meatball Quest

Being a planner by nature, I struggle with not plotting out every detail of our vacations ahead of time.  However, I have been working on being less rigid, so over the past year our vacations have become less planned and more spur of the moment.  Sure we make plane, car, and hotel reservations but everything else we do occurs as the mood strikes us.  (Even traveling like this is a big step for me).  Prior to our arrival we may have a general sense of what we want to see or do but long gone are the days of purchasing and reserving admission tickets in advance.  (An exception is our upcoming trip to Vienna for the opera).  Usually this approach works and much to my surprise, I rather enjoy the carefree, unscheduled feel of our recent trips.  This past week however, I discovered one glitch in this approach.

For our trip to Bavaria we were mostly following our new unplanned vacation schedule.  While I had planned ahead and made Christmas dinner reservations, the rest of our meals were going to be of the moment decisions based on what we felt like eating each day.  Wrong!  Our meals became dictated by what was available at what time and not the other way around.  Over the past week I quickly discovered that dinner reservations are a must in Germany over the holidays.  You would think we would have learned our lesson after our first strike out but no; whether dining at Edelweiss or out in Garmisch, reservations were necessary.  At the resort they made the effort to squeeze us in at odd times but out in town we were repeatedly met with a flat out "no" at each restaurant we inquired at.

No meatballs but a tasty Christmas Eve dinner at Mohrenplatze
Our first mistake was Christmas Eve. We had received mixed messages from resort staff about what was and wasn't open.  As the dinner hour approached we realized that very few restaurants were indeed open for more than drinks and if they were, reservations were a must.  Our hotel scrambled to make us  oh-too early reservations at a local place for the un-mealtime hour of 17.30.  Not wanting to have to eat pizza in our room we decided to go for it only to discover that the restaurant in question was a dive bar that even this permissive parent was not taking her three year old into.  This is what we get for taking dinner recommendations from a twenty year old!

We wandered the streets and somewhere along our search for a more acceptable restaurant I asked Sidney what he wanted for dinner.  I assumed this was a safe question since he had been enjoying sausages at every meal and being in Germany I felt confident that we could deliver.  Much to my surprise he proclaimed "meatballs"!  Yes, meatballs in Germany.  As luck would have it we did find a restaurant whose posted menu promised meatballs and we excitedly assured Sidney that his dinner wish would be granted.  Unfortunately the lights were on in the restaurant but the doors were locked. No meatballs for Sidney.  We did end up at the very nice Mohrenplazte Restaurant where we enjoyed a variety of German food.  We had managed to get a table since it was a little past 17.30 and we promised to be finished before 19.00.  We made it work.  Sidney ate up his noodles with Roquefort sauce and roasted peppers but continued to ask for meatballs.  We promised him that he would eventually get his meatballs.

Some children might forget the simple promise of a favored food but not Sidney.  Christmas morning he awoke asking for meatballs and the plea continued throughout the day.  "Please Mamma.  Meatballs please Mamma." was our Christmas Day refrain.  A traditional American Christmas dinner featuring a variety of other meats didn't cut if for my son.  He still wanted his meatballs.  I swear he was even dreaming about them.  We told Sidney that the night after Christmas he would eat meatballs and he excitedly walked to the restaurant on that promise.  We were all crushed when we were brusquely told that without reservations we wouldn't be dining on meatballs that night.  The disappointment in Sidney's voice was heartbreaking as he asked why he couldn't have meatballs for dinner since we had promised.  Yes we had.  Glenn and I really need to know better about making promises we can't control.  Even after eating a foot long sausage and roll and a chocolate filled crepe from a street vendor---the only place open that didn't require reservations for dinner--- Sidney still wanted his promised meal.

Each time Sidney's wish wasn't fulfilled, he didn't cry or whine. Rather he just asked why in a sad pleading voice.  I tried all of my logic in explaining the situation;  the restaurant was closed, Mamma didn't make reservations, there weren't any tables available, they were out of meatballs.  Apologetically I tried all of these approaches.  Sidney's three year old logic reasoned that we could just wait or they could make more.  He also said that Mamma could go to the store and buy more for them.  How on earth does one counter these arguments?

Some of my earliest memories are of promises my own parents had made to me (probably in an attempt to appease me) but never fulfilled.  To this day I still remember that sad, not understanding feeling and hearing the same tone in Sidney's voice brought it all back to me.   Will he be scarred for life over not getting his meatballs?  Will this be his early lingering memory of Germany?  Am I reading too much into all of this?  Just when I think I have a handle on this parenting thing, Sidney tosses a new challenge my way.  I need to remember that he is a little sponge with a steel trap for a mind that doesn't miss anything.  He also remembers everything. (Just yesterday upon checking into a new hotel and venturing out for the first time, upon our return he remembered which elevator button to push and which door was ours).  I don't want him to remember his Mamma making promises that I couldn't keep.  That certainly is not a childhood memory for him to cherish.

In the new year I'm vowing not to make promises I can't keep.  There is one promise, however, that I can make.  Upon our return to Albania our first dinner at home will be homemade meatballs.  I hope Sidney still wants them; with my luck after a week of asking for meatballs he'll have moved onto wanting pizza.

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